I took a nap and I dreamed about my father passing away. He was laying in a coffin, but in real life he is still alive. This dream was a nightmare for me I was crying and very afraid.
Dear Dreamer: I’m so sorry! Those dreams are awful. You wake up confused about who’s dead and who’s alive, and maybe worried that the dream is a premonition of an actual event. As you’ve adjusted to daily living, you’ve probably come to find that your father is alive and not in literal danger. So what does this dream mean for you?
Without having spoken with you, I would gander a couple of strong possibilities: your father complex is dying due to some new events or awareness in your life, and/or you have an unconscious and confusing death wish for your father. Let me explain.
If you’re anything like anyone alive, your relationship with your father is complicated. In your own particular blend of feelings that all children share, you love your father and are angry with him. You are hurt from past events and also grateful for things. Unconsciously, you balance out all of your conscious beliefs about him with their opposites. For instance, a woman may dream of her father all the time but in therapy will proclaim to have had a very good childhood with him, with nothing more to say. After months pass, however, she may begin to have conscious memories of his angry episodes or feeling his cold tone filter throughout the house. Consciously, she liked her dad. Unconsciously, things were much more complicated.
Carl Jung’s notion of a “complex” is a little like what acupuncturists work on when they’re seeking to clear a stuck point in the body: it’s a bundle of energy in your system that, when triggered by a word or a life event or even a nostalgic smell, can release all sorts of information. Until it’s triggered though, a complex sits there quietly, unconsciously, invisible to everyone except in certain patterns of behavior. Your “father complex” is your bundle of memories and experiences related to your father and other influential men in your life–including cultural images of the father or men in leadership positions. As an adult, some aspect of the way you view all men is filtered through this complex. A male guru, for instance, may appear all-knowing to a woman with a positive father complex. On the other side, for women who grew up with an angry, unpredictable father, even the kindest, simplest man may appear conniving.
So I would ask you, in what ways has your father complex been triggered lately? Have you begun dating a new man? Do you have a new male teacher? Or has your relationship with your father in life changed in any way? Listen to the image: The father is passing away. The father is dead. The father is going to be buried. What does that evoke for you? Perhaps you’re moving through a chapter of growth and you are gaining your own authority and leadership within yourself, or perhaps you’re able to be that much more present with a male partner now because you can see him more clearly for who he is. If you take some time to journal about this dream, letting your mind wander and your body experience the image, some significant insights are likely to arise.
As I said above, the second major possibility to explore is that you have some unconscious death wish for your father. To get into this tricky territory, let me quote Carl Jung on a woman’s dream of her dead mother:
…there does exist in our dreamer the tendency to be rid of her mother; expressed in the language of the unconscious, she wants her mother to die. But the dreamer should certainly not be saddled with this tendency because, strictly speaking, it was not she who fabricated the dream, but the unconscious.
Note that Jung is careful to emphasize what I want to emphasize with you: “The very fact that she can dream of such a thing proves that she does not consciously think of it. She has no notion why her [father] should be got rid of.”
Knowing absolutely nothing of your particular situation, it is hard for me to venture a guess as to why your unconscious may be harboring some infantile death wish for your father. Again, however, I wonder if your current romantic relationship status may have something to do with it. Are you seeking to enter into a relationship of which you feel your father would disapprove? Are you considering marriage and therefore–forgive my awkward heteronormative take here–needing to psychologically supplant the primary man in your life? Consider the deep cultural roots around the replacement of the father with the husband–think of the tradition of fathers “giving away” their daughters in wedding ceremonies.
Whether it’s a secret death wish or simply an increasing awareness around the father complex in your life, your dream suggests a threshold time. Some significant aspect of your life is changing. The image of death says as much. It is not a sleeping image or a wounded image, it is not a near death, but death itself. Old social customs and mythological tradition holds that when an old king dies, a new king is born and begins his reign. Consider this. The ground is being prepared for a new paradigm; an old ruling paradigm is falling away and a new one is coming.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Q: I went to bed with my newly pregnant wife. I was lying with her as I felt something on my right shoulder. When I turn on my phone light I noticed it was a daddy longleg and try killing it. As I freak out thinking of what else may be in bed, I decide to check under where I was lying and notice three other spiders. One was a wolf spider and two were unknown with multiple humps resembling eggs on each back. They were black and gray, large and extremely creepy (unlike a daddy longleg). . . We got out of bed and hit the lights. I shook myself down and brushed my body off and had her help. I then took off my clothes, which I notice still had random insects on them. I went back to the bed and saw that the side I was sleeping on was full of insects coming from the ground to the blanket and into bed. There were 4 large centipedes that crawled into the bed.
The sheet I was laying on in my dream is the wool blanket we use at the fire station where I work. It’s one I always refuse to use as I think its disgusting because people always sleep with it and never wash it.
Where my wife lay, there were no insects of any kind and she had nothing on her when we got out of bed. She stated in my dream that whoever we got the bed from was the issue. I argued saying it’s not the bed but another source of course, and that we needed to have it dealt with and to call an exterminator.
A: Thank you for sharing this dream, and congratulations on your coming baby! You shared this dream with me after finding the interpretation I did of a Spiders-In-Bed dream two years ago. As this is a very common dream, I’m glad to explore the images more deeply here. You will know from my first interpretation that spiders are very often referencing the Mother Complex in dreams. When they show up in dreams related to beds, I pay particular attention because it suggests that your mother is — symbolically speaking — in bed with you. In this case, I would venture that your relationship to your mother is somehow (probably unpleasantly) infecting your relationship with your wife. Having said all that, however, you also note specifically the Daddy Longleg several times, suggesting that your father is also involved here. The first questions you might reflect deeply on (not with your knee-jerk feelings): How are your relationships with your parents influencing you now and on the dawn of becoming a father, how are you feeling? What are your fears?
Your first instinct when you see the Daddy Longleg in the dream is to kill it. This is a red flag to me in regards to how you are living your conscious life, and something I would encourage you to explore. Everyone knows that Daddy Longlegs are harmless spiders. Why do you want to kill it? As a general rule, one’s reaction to other living things in dreams is very telling of one’s conscious relationship to lesser conscious aspects of themselves. Again, I’m curious: are you attempting to deny your feelings related to your father or your feelings related to becoming a father yourself?
When I explored a little more about the Daddy Longleg, I discovered that they are the only spider with a penis, mating directly through penetration (arachnologists, please correct me here if needed!). Again, this specific image points us to questions of procreation. Then, shortly following the Daddy Longleg’s appearance in the dream, other spiders appear — a highly dangerous Wolf Spider for one — and you see humps resembling eggs. Eggs: another image highly suggestive of procreation and new beginnings. Three spiders with eggs on their backs, one spider with a penis. 3+1 = 4, 3 feminine spiders plus 1 masculine spider… very curious, archetypal symbolism here, as the feminine and masculine are interwoven… 3 tends to be a number indicative of the masculine while 4 is a number suggesting feminine wholeness. (Typically, the 3+1 arrangement is the opposite combination; think of the Trinity + the Holy Mother, for instance.) Perhaps this is more complex archetypal symbolism for another time…
As a symbol, the Bed in dreams very often points to the “marriage bed”, a phrase suggesting the very beginnings of a union. Similarly, you can note that a synonym for “Bed” is “Foundation.” The bed is the foundation of the relationship much like a flower bed, the place from which plants and weeds alike can grow. This image is reflected in the way in which you see the insects coming up from the ground. So, in addition to questions of fatherhood, this dream seems to really be directing your attention to the foundation of your marriage. From the way this dream unfolds, I would say you are unconsciously bringing some stuff into your marriage that you need to take a hard look at. The mess in the bed is on your side.
To bring this into very practical language, I would say the following: you are clearly chewing deeply on what it means to be a father right now, consciously or unconsciously. I would venture a guess too that you’ve been moody and overwhelmed. Again, the fact that your side of the bed is covered in insects and that your wife’s side is clean seems to be telling you to be honest about your side of things. Your side is dirty, that’s undeniable. This makes me wonder if you’ve been blaming your wife for things lately, maybe that you two have been fighting a bit, and through your dream, your unconscious is correcting your conscious belief about who’s right and wrong in the marriage. Notice the way you disagree with your wife in the dream: she states, “whoever we got the bed from was the issue.” She’s pointing here to the root of the problem and perhaps is suggesting that your parental influences are infecting your marriage. Again, look at the image of the marriage bed here. Symbolically, your bed, your foundation, came from your parents. You can’t just call an exterminator to kill the problem. Just like killing the Daddy Longleg didn’t make the spiders go away, calling the exterminator to deal with the bed is just pure denial. It’s not going to work. In the dream world, death is just a precursor for resurrection.
You state it clearly, your wife is helping you clean up. Take a good look at that image. I imagine her supporting you to sort through your past and your fears and your feelings. In the process, you’ve been removing clothing, an image suggesting the removal of false layers, of the personas in which we all walk around the world. Good for you. This is a strong symbol in many fairy tales, and shows up in dreams regularly as well. True transformation often comes with the removal of skins or clothes. Accept her help.
Finally, I’ll offer that your association to the wool blanket from work makes me wonder if you’re not bringing work home with you, in particular, other people’s stresses. You’re disgusted by this blanket and yet in the dream it is part of the foundation on which you are sleeping with your wife. How much of your work life is infecting your relationship with your wife?
There is a lot here for you to face, dear Dreamer. You can make a choice, gently but directly look at these issues I raise and whatever else occurs to you while you explore this dream further. Or… try to just kill it, call the exterminator, argue about the roots of things, and live in denial. I would suggest that these insects, your moods and frustrations, your upset words will continue to infest your life and marriage if you don’t deal with the foundation of things. But, as always, the choice is up to you.
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