Q: I’m chasing my two young daughters through an outdoor restaurant. My toddler is jumping on picnic tables and nearly steps on a plate of food in front of a handsome, tattooed man. I apologize profusely, but he doesn’t seem bothered. He plays sweetly with my toddler, then notices my other daughter in the background. He comments on how funny it is that she’s there as she is his daughter. I’m confused. I tell him that she’s my daughter. He becomes confused. I touch his arms and then hold his hands. I’m trying to remember how it’s possible that I don’t remember conceiving a child with him. We feel a connection like we could make this work. How have we forgotten each other?
A: What a very, very lovely dream. I am moved by the emotional, fated encounter that this dream illustrates, and also by the inner awakening that I think it’s reflecting. You’ve re-encountered an aspect of yourself that it seems you lost touch with long ago. “How could we have forgotten each other?”
This dream is a lovely reflection of what Jung called “the reality of the psyche.” This may feel like the biggest leap I’ve ever asked you to take with me, readers, but I want to suggest that the characters in our dreams may not just be aspects of ourselves and our emotional lives, but also real unto themselves. Just as when we create something a piece of art, for instance, a painting or a piece of music, it reflects who we are on the inside and how we’re feeling, but once it is created, it is separate from us and exists on its own. We create something and make it autonomous. If animated, it would no longer feel itself to simply be a part of us, we would be its place of origin, but not its totality.
How does this relate to the world of dreams? In dream interpretation, we do a lot of exploration into the meaning of certain images and characters, seeking insight into our lives. While this can be very illuminating, it is also always a bit reductive. What your dream so beautifully illustrates is a sense of the autonomous interactions between characters in your psyche. All dreams can be seen this way, but it is the mutual sense of confusion and surprise that you and this man experience that I find particularly compelling. One might imagine a movie made from this scene: you step into another world, another realm, and there you encounter a man who truly, with all his being, believes himself to be the father of your child and yet not know you at all. This man whom you encounter exists, he has come into existence through you, and he is perplexed, just as you are, by the confounding situation. I just love that!
Now, to ground this back into the exploration of the dream’s meaning for you, this very handsome man to whom you are so drawn represents a part of your animus, your inner masculine, with which you seem to be getting re-acquainted. My guess is that his essence is familiar, if you were to explore it further, to your sense of who were in earlier days. Make a list of the qualities you see in him. Write every trait down that you can associate with him. Really, do it! Now once you’ve written down all those traits, come back…
All of those traits are parts of you. They are qualities in you that you’re projecting into him. Own them. Does he represents qualities of yourself that you had to let go of when you became pregnant with your first child? Does he feel like a part of yourself that you lost touch with back then?
Your description of this handsome man gives me the sense that he is a confident, integrated person, and that your connection to him in your dream provides you with a sense of calm and confidence too. Just like a wonderful friend in the waking world, or a beautiful painting you created, this inner figure can now look back at you and show you your strengths and beauty.
I’ll share with our readers what you shared with me, that you are a recently divorced woman, single for the last year or so. You also reported a long-standing fear that you will not find love or partnership again as you feel that no man will want to be with a woman with two children. Oh dear. I hope (pray) that this dream has provided you with a visceral sense of calm around that fear. If you take nothing from this exploration, I ask you simply, in times of distress, to sink back into that feeling you had when you woke-up: a man, to whom you are very attracted, is drawn to you, and not in-spite of your children but in large part because of them! He is gentle with your toddler and loving towards you. Remember the feeling of this and create your own reality around it. In times of insecurity and doubt, you can draw-on this inner figure to give you a sense of confidence. Use that feeling of connection for strength in the outer world and hang your head high. This handsome, kind, confident man is you, and he is yours as well.
Do you have a question about your dreams? Send me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
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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
Q: I am on a rural farm or in a kind of carnival area and a girl in her late teens or early twenties has been chasing after me. She runs into a concession stand with a window that can shut. I want to vanquish her, to get her to stop. I have a dish towel that I’ve formed into a bag with glass shards in it. I throw the bag into the stand where she is. Just as I throw it, I realize I’ve given her ammo. She starts coming after me and the people around me, my boyfriend, family, and others who I want to protect. She’s trying to cut us with little bits of glass, throwing them at us one-by-one.
A: Thank you for sharing this dream, it’s an excellent one for demonstrating how our unconscious can show us parts of our behavior and attitudes of which we’re not yet consciously aware. Dreams come to us from the unconscious, but that doesn’t mean a place of just repressed memories or nonsense from the day. As I’ll explore with this dream, the unconscious, or “not-yet-conscious” mind, stores a great deal of information about the world and who we are that we’ve just not yet been able to see and integrate. Seeing what’s in “the back of the brain” can be like seeing your back in a mirror: it’s different than what you see every day when you see your front side, but it’s as much you as the other and it helps to provide a more complete picture of who you are.
In this dream, a girl is chasing you. Based on the content of what you told me about, I anticipated correctly that this young woman was either dark skinned or had dark hair. Why? Because you’re a blond woman, and the structure of this dream clearly indicates that this is a shadow figure for you. Dreams have patterns and a sort of physics to them that, once learned, can allow certain predictions on the actions and traits of characters involved.
So what does it mean that she’s a shadow figure for you? In the dream, your conscious attitude of yourself, represented by the “I” character, is in opposition to her. You two are in conflict. She represents an aspect of yourself that is in conflict with how you see yourself and your behavior, and she is trying to get your attention. When attempting to destroy her, your method of assault backfired, and instead of getting rid of her, you provided her with ammunition to hurt you and those you care about. There is a part of you that knows that an aspect of your character has been damaging those around you somehow, and the methods you’ve used so far to try to get rid of her have only caused more harm. This part of you is throwing shards of glass at your boyfriend and people you care about. One by one.
What does this mean? To be throwing shards of glass? That gesture of throwing shards, tiny pieces of glass, evokes a style of communication like nagging or picking, or saying little, mean comments. They’re “small” words, like comments from a teenage girl who doesn’t yet know the damage her words are causing. “They’re just little pieces of glass,” you might try to rationalize, but we know the phrase “death by a thousand cuts”; enough little jabs, and our relationships suffer. We can hurt people with accidental, emotional commentary. Sometimes, we can fool ourselves that our behavior with others is no big deal, but all of the emotions and mean comments build-up. We can end up attacking just the people we consciously see ourselves as intending to protect. Specifically, that the glass was wrapped in a dish towel suggests to me that these comments may be wrapped in the form of trying to help and “clean things up” somehow. It seems that wrapped inside your attempts to help others or make things better, may be comments that feel like criticisms instead.
I will share with our readers that we discussed this dream at some length, and you had some important insights about your communication, especially with your boyfriend. “I’m glad we talked about that glass,” you reported the next day. As the dreamer, you instinctively know what those symbols mean in your life. They speak to you personally once they’ve been explored. This isn’t heady intellectualism or nonsense symbology, it resonates. Perhaps now with some insight, you’ll be able to vanquish this attacking-girl for real. She was trying to get your attention, and she has. By acknowledging her, you can now truly protect those around you who have been in harm’s way.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their 20s and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com