Tagged: Portland therapist

“I look in the Mirror and My Hair is Not My Hair!” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

Q: I had a dream last night that I was sitting around with a bunch of old female friends (I’m a woman) and we were talking about haircuts. I looked in the mirror and saw that my hair was much thinner, shorter and choppier than it actually is. They were giving me advice on how to change it. I’ve had dreams in which my hair was different before, I think. What does this mean?

I find dreams about hair and haircuts fascinating. It’s just a simple image, but these dreams appear with some regularity, often catching the dreamer’s attention. It feels significant to look into the mirror in a dream and see yourself as different than you know yourself to be.

Let’s start with the archetypal layer of this dream. Prior to modern thinking, hair was often associated with virility and power.

The chiefs and magicians of the Masai, the African tribe, were afraid to lose their supernatural powers if they let their beards be cut . . . Hair is regarded as a sign of extraordinary power and magical strength. The young warriors of the Teutons cut their hair and beards only after having slain the enemy. Samson, too, was deprived of his power after Delilah had cut off his curls. (Children’s Dreamsp. 105)

Indeed, Samson, the strong man of the Bible, has supernatural strength because of his hair. Nothing can stop him or get in his way, until his wife cuts his hair when he is asleep and he awakes to find himself weak and powerless.

These mythological stories — like so many others — may be more true to reality than we originally thought. I’m intrigued by reports that the United States military conducted tests in the Vietnam War on new Native American recruits before they received their military haircuts and after. I can’t verify this story myself, but these military experiments apparently convinced even the most skeptical researchers that the men’s long hair had provided them with a profound intuition that gave them a significant edge in battle. Like Samson, when their hair was cut, they lost their unique skills as soldiers and were in danger much more often. It was theorized that their hair (our human hair) acted like the antennas of insects and whiskers of animals, providing an avenue of sensory input for the surrounding world. (Go ahead and read this article for more information on this research).

So how does this all relate to your dream?

When you look in the mirror, you’re surprised by what you see. Your hair is thinner, shorter and choppier than you know it to be and you’re surprised. In fact, you seem discomforted by this, as if in this moment you feel less confident than before. You don’t think, “Aha! Look at my hair!” Instead, your adjectives betray some confusion and disappointment. Does witnessing yourself in the mirror feel disconcerting? Do you feel less confident than you typically do? Your dream may be reflecting something about how you appear to others (at least in the current moment) not exactly as you perceive yourself. Is your dream calling your attention to a lack of confidence or relationships that are “cutting you down”? I wonder about what this particular group of friends tells you about your identity. Explore for yourself how they connect with your self-perception. Are they people from childhood? Women related to how you learned about who you are?

Of course you know that the way we wear our hair has a dramatic influence on how we are perceived in the world (think dreadlocks versus a mohawk versus a business cut). Not to mention hair as an indicator of ethnicity and resulting social power (something the African American community knows well — just last month I saw the term “wooly-headed” in a professional magazine. Yikes! That’s still being used??). Whether it speaks to intuition or super-human strength or not, hair does still correlate to how much power we hold socially and the groups with which we associate, by choice or not.

Haircuts and hairdos also speak to changing identities in general, not just as a loss or gain of power. Yes, the move into the military involves the ceremonial loss of hair, as does the path to becoming a buddhist monk or nun. Buddhist monastics shave their head as a demonstration of the loss of attachment to worldly things. Even the passage into marriage for many women and men involves a complicated ritual of preparation in regards to her/his hair.

We can’t overlook the fact that, as an imagine, hair also reflects thoughts and ideas; the shape and style and quality of all that energy pouring out of your head. Someone may have a dream in which things are caught in their hair, for instance, pointing to a certain kind of messiness or mental infestation. Your dream indicates a change here too, one that doesn’t feel terribly positive to you. The mirror — another important symbol all by itself — reflects back a side of yourself that you can’t see alone. What we see in the mirror can help us to see ourselves both more accurately and as, strangely, separate from ourselves. We can observe what we were unable to observe before. Be it a shift in power or a shift in your thinking, something has thinned and become choppier and your dream is reflecting that back to you. Is this a shadow side in need or exploring? A mood?

If we were to sit together to explore this dream, I would invite you to delve deeper into the feelings that arise; the feeling of seeing yourself in the mirror, the feeling of contemplating a new haircut, and what you imagine that might look like. What are your attachments or insecurities in regards to your hair in waking life? I encourage you to contemplate your hair and how your identity may be shifting these days. Ask a trusted friend to sit with you and talk about the experience of seeing your hair as you did in the dream. Your dream is showing you something about who you are right now, step towards the image and take a look.

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

“Someone is Trying to Break Into My House!” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

Q: I have a recurring dream that someone is trying to break into my house. It’s usually a very scary man, maybe about forty years old. (I get chills even thinking about him now). When I wake up from this dream, I often have to get out of bed to make sure the door is locked before I can go back to sleep.

break in dreamA: Oh dreamer, this is such a common theme. I’m glad you brought it to our attention so we can work through it together. You want these dreams to go away and stop taunting you, I know. You wonder what they could possibly mean and why they’re afflicting you. They’re disturbing your sleep and penetrating your waking life with the fear they contain. These dreams are very important dreams, but they rarely mean anything like what you’re likely to think they do.

First of all, I’d like to refer you to a little post I wrote about recurring nightmares. Please give it a read to help gauge what type of nightmares you typically suffer from. It can be important to identify some trauma history around nightmares, in addition to overall symbolism.

Okay, before we go on, I need to ask you to do one more thing: Get a piece of paper and a pen. Go on… I know it’s old fashioned. Now take a moment to go back into the feeling of this dream, then write down as many descriptors of this scary guy as you can muster. But write down what he’s like besides being scary. Does he have a job? Does he have a family? What do you know about him that you might be surprised to know. Then, finally, ask yourself what you think he wants from you.

It’s really important that you try to get to know this guy because he is your shadow. He’s you. I know, it’s yucky to hear that, but keep listening. This is important stuff. When we have an idea of who we are, our perspective about ourselves can become kind of rigid and fixed. Those things you avoid acknowledging about yourself to feel more comfortable don’t just go away. They get cut-off from your awareness and then tend to fester and get pissed. In your dreams, they turn into actual figures, and they can turn kind of primal and wild in their frustration at being neglected. These figures are part of your whole person, but they’re being left out in the cold. No wonder they want to break in.

So, the underlying sense in this dream is that you feel under attack. You likely feel like you’re under attack or in danger in some form out in the world too. But your dreams are telling you something very clearly here: despite all the dangers in the world that may cause a person to feel fear, you are currently under attack by your own self. Nothing more. Get real with yourself here. Try to be gentle and forgiving. Take your time. What are you running from? What are you trying not to notice? Who are you scared of being?

The answer to these questions can be found in gently trying to understand who this figure is that’s trying to break-in. There may also be information in what house you’re in in these dreams. Is it your current home or a childhood home, for instance? Notice what time of your life these dreams are situated in, and you may gather more information about what part of your life they’re speaking to.

As you do this exploration, take heart! There is always a happy ending when these dreams resolve. You will find that this man actually just wanted to tell you he loved you, for instance. Or he may hand you flowers. I know this might sound absurd, but this man is not as scary as he feels. The anticipation of jumping out of a plane is scarer than the jump itself (or so I’ve heard…). Similarly, anticipating an encounter with someone you’re trying to avoid tends to be worse than the encounter itself. Try not to think about this too much, but work on engaging with this man a little more directly–either in your dreams, if you can, or in waking life projected onto strangers or people you don’t like. Get to know him and what he wants. Try not to avoid him internally or externally. Discover what’s happening when you start to feel under attack in waking life. Stay safe, but also bring your guards down a little. Get curious. You may discover that your life changes in positive ways as this happens. And you’ll be surprised by how.

P.S. You may enjoy listening to this Radio Lab episode called “Haunted Dreams” in which a man who has been plagued by the same dreams as you–for twenty years!– finds a way to make them stop. It’s a great episode but–spoiler alert–they stop rather short of explaining why the dreams were there in the first place and what changed for the man after the dreams stopped. Perhaps your own exploration into this territory can illuminate those questions further.

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