Q: 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
Q: I am in an academic setting, like a boarding school, and I am not allowed to leave. My mom is there. Two authority figures (at least one of whom was a man) are telling me that they are removing my eye. I am protesting and showing them that I already gave a tooth. They are very adamant and even my mom is saying that I have to do it. I’m furious and frustrated in the dream and continue to argue with them to the point where I am weeping and screaming.
A: Whew! This dream is quite upsetting! I feel chills when I read it, and can imagine you waking-up nervous and terrified. What do those people want from you??
Exploring this dream with you provided a reminder of what’s laying just below the surface of our awareness. We let ourselves acknowledge some of what we’re experiencing in our day-to-day lives, and a lot of the rest of what happens we choose to avoid or aren’t able to fully integrate. You initially shrugged and laughed when you shared this dream: “I think it’s about my student loan debt,” you told me. Hrm. I had my doubts. The emotions in this dream are far too strong to associate with the stress of student loans, unless you anticipate you’ll be on the street soon as a result.
What does resonate with the stress of student loans, however, is the feeling of being owned by someone else because of what they expect from you. The feeling that you are obligated to continue giving of yourself, despite having given a lot already. How does that ring true for you in other ways? When we discussed this, deep waves of emotion began to come to the surface. Things began to sink in for you. You’re a new mother, and between your beloved baby and your husband and the expectations at home, you’re being pulled in a million different directions. There’s a sense of infantilization, of imprisonment. Just take a moment to imagine the feeling of being in a boarding school today and being unable to leave! Just that opening feels a bit like a horror film. Then the dream continues, and you wake up crying and pleading for the authority figures to stop. The injustice of what is being asked of you is palpable.
You did not anticipate feeling so emotional after sharing the dream. As we talked more about what’s been going on in your life, some of the stress shifted into the truer, softer emotions underneath. Emotions that haven’t had much chance to be felt or seen will build-up and “harden.” In the same way that your shoulder may tighten due to stress, thoughts and emotions that aren’t integrated fully can begin to form a knot, a psychic complex, showing-up as characters in your dreams. Exploring the images from dreams can start to loosen-up those knots and allow the emotions caught within them to release.
I asked you about the appearance of your mom in the dream. Why her? As the lone familiar figure in your dream, her presence is likely to be particularly telling. We explored the history of her marriage to your dad and what similar themes may be getting activated for you now. You know some of the history of what was happening in their relationship when you were a baby. Are there feelings of carrying too much of the weight at home? Feelings of losing your independence? You nodded. Much of your former life as a single woman feels unrecognizable at the moment. We discussed this, and discussed what you’ve had to give-up.
There is a great deal of symbolism within the particular images of giving up a tooth, and forcibly losing an eye. These are big ones! As I’ve explored previously, losing a tooth in a dream can point to major life changes (we know those are present), and losing an eye can point to a sense of disorientation, of being rendered blind. You might feel that your ability to vision, to dream, to imagine a new life is being stolen from you. Your imagination, your artful creative side may feel rather distant at the moment. These images also point to the familiar Talmudic saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” pointing to notions of equal justice. It makes me wonder further, is there a sense of your needing to atone for something? Maybe a latent guilt that should be explored? Or does it suggest Gandhi’s response, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” maybe pointing to battles with your husband that will only hurt you both? These questions take us down another path, but there’s much here left to explore.
My advice? Don’t shirk the emotions around what’s happening in your life right now. Do your best to feel what’s happening these days, even if there’s not much time for it and it seems unimportant to do so. You may not be able to fully control events these days (I’m not sure we ever are), but the way they’re affecting you is real. Talk with your mom about her emotions when she was in this phase of life. Explore, even when it feels silly, your own emotions around what’s happening at home. Allow yourself to feel sad versus just getting mad and frustrated. The loss you’re experiencing is real. The adjustments to this new phase are big. Allow yourself to really listen to the softer layers of what’s going on inside your chest, and behind your eyes. You might be surprised that it will soften the actual events and communication at home as well.
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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