Q: I am about to get into my sister’s old Subaru to do some errands. As I unlock it with the remote unlocker button, 4 or 5 other people open up all the car doors and get in before me. I tell them to get out as I’m the only one who has permission to use it. But they refuse to leave. For a second, I consider letting them stay in the car; I think that they had some right to be there. But then I think otherwise and I push the panic button so that the car alarm goes off. A security guard comes quickly. He sides with me and makes the people get out of the car and leave, though I discover that he is the father to one of the people in the car. I tell him, “you’re very professional” as I slide into the drivers seat feeling empowered.
A: Well, well, my dear boy! Things are a shiftin’, huh? Had you had this dream several months ago, I would guess a different ending in which, by rather circuitous logic, you determine that the people who get into the car have every right to be there (despite their rude intrusion), and that you’re perfectly able to do your errands by foot. By God, you might even just hand them a few bucks for their gas as they peel out of the driveway! Okay, I jest, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so dramatic… but you get the idea. You’ve been working on “being more assertive” as you put it, and your dreams are starting to reflect that. Well done!
The dreams you’ve shared in the past have reminded me of an old Buddhist fable in which a monk, returning to his solitary cave from a walk, discovers a thief scurrying off with his possessions. The monk looks around his bare place, grabs the few remaining things, and then runs after the thief shouting: “wait, wait! You forgot some things!!”
Be it a spiritual pursuit, this behavior of yours, or a learned trait, I would say it’s not exactly a lack of assertiveness from which you suffer, but more an affliction of being overly deferential to those who step into your life. Your dreams have shown this, time after time, and I know you’ve been reflecting deeply on this behavior and its affect on you. Unlike the monk, you have not felt entirely at peace with your complicity of being robbed of all your things. You’ve built up a frustration and resentment that your deference is not reciprocated, leaving you to regret your choices.
This dream suggests that you’ve been working this whole thing through, standing up for yourself and acting in ways more congruent with the situation. But you’re not done yet! There’s material here still too be plumbed. Should you choose to accept the challenge, I bet you’re ready for a new depth of exploration to understand what these dreams are offering you. Our new exploration is not about what this complex is, but from where it came. What is the origin of your behavior to be excessively deferential to others? What are the values and belief systems in which this behavior is rooted?
In that mere second in the dream when you consider letting these intruders into your car, what are you thinking? (I don’t mean this rhetorically.) In that split second in which you even consider their right to be there, there is a lot you can learn about yourself. Draw that short moment out like rubber. Look at it. Explore it. What do you imagine the people’s claim to that car to be? Allow yourself to free associate to whatever comes up. What memories pop-up? Images? Write down and draw whatever comes to mind. Do the same exploration with that helpful security guard… it will be very interesting to know more about what he represents in your psyche. What does he feel like? What is his professional manner that you admire, and why? Who does he look like? Does he remind you of anyone, or a composite of people?
The fact that this security guard turns out to be the father of someone in the car, suggests an interesting relationship in your psyche between the figures of intrusion and those of protection. There are close ties there. The real work may begin with exploring your relationship with your own father, and also with the familial roles you played among your siblings. The way those people jump into the car (your sister’s car), make me wonder if we’re not looking at some well ingrained family dynamics. Are these dream intruders playing the role of your brothers and sisters? How is their behavior towards you, and yours towards them, familiar to your relationships with your siblings? It also seems illuminating how you state that the guard “sides” with you, as if he were not a security guard at all but a father adjudicating a dispute among children. Of course, it’s not a leap to assume that the way you are in the world with others is largely a result of the roles you played as a child. This is psychotherapy 101. But this is an aspect of this dream stuff that I don’t think has yet been sufficiently explored. Now that you’re allowing this new awareness to influence your behavior, and now that your behavior is even altering within your dreams, you’ve got space to begin understanding from where this complex hails and how to mature it properly, once and for all.
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’m at a lake with some of the cast of The Wonder Years, Fred Savage and the guy who played the dad. We are happy. The scene feels like the old footage from the beginning of the show. We are water skiing, almost like cross-country skiing, on the pristine water of the lake. As we approach the shore, I see black squid in the water just around the shoreline. They’re not huge, and are sort of lazily swimming about. Some of them are crawling on me and I find the experience enjoyable. We have these old fishing nets and we try to catch several of them to eat for dinner. I catch one and we put the creature on the shoreline in the sand. He just hung out there, I think. Just before waking up, I remember seeing a dead, slightly hardened squid in the water. I poked it just to make sure.
A: My first impression of this dream was simply that it is very beautiful. Aesthetically lovely. A flat, calm lake and black playful squid? How curious and interesting.
Beyond that first impression, however, this dream left me rather curious. I had to ask you some questions about it and you answered them. The following, for our readers, includes information you provided me in the course of talking. I wish I could have captured the full conversation because it was a rather illustrative example of what unfolds with dream work.
I asked you first if this lake reminded you of anything and you responded that there were some similarities to one you went to as a kid. “With your dad,” I asked? “Yes, sometimes with my dad.” The beginning of the dream and the reference to The Wonder Years, felt to me less a reference to that show than an illustration of the relationship between a boy and his dad. The struggle of growing up, and the way that one’s relationship with his father is redefined over time. The end of this dream was a bit of a twist on how I might have imagined this dream to end, however, but this was my hunch: the dream is mirroring specific elements of your relationship with your father, and while the majority of the relationship is rather lovely and comfortable (playful squid, a beautiful lake, serenity), there’s one element that has come up from the depths of the water that is rather dead and stagnant, like the squid at the end of the dream. You poke it sometimes to check for sure, but find that it really has died and hardened as you anticipated.
“Is there something in your relationship with your father that you’re struggling with right now?” I asked. You offered that there is. You and your dad do not see eye-to-eye on the intersection between science and God, you explained. You respect him, love him, and look-up to him, but in this one area, the conversation is stalled and it’s somewhat heartbreaking for you. While we were talking, you remembered another dream that more overtly referenced these themes: you were debating your father about gay marriage and felt terribly disappointed with his arguments. You felt sad that you could not respect him in this area, and at the end of the dream, he died.
You are wrestling on deep levels, it seems, with the struggle in values between you and your father. Like the squid, it is coming up to the surface, from the waters of your unconscious and the landscape of your childhood. From these questions, we were led into a long conversation about God, theology, family, politics, and values. We have your dream to thank for that.
Do you have a question about your dreams? Send me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Satya is a therapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in applicable dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and the stage of life between young adulthood and mid-life.