Q: I go upstairs into a room that I’m surprised I’ve never been to before. Then I realize I used to be up here all the time, but not for a while. There is a sweet baby elephant jumping and playing in the room, small and gray. I’m with another woman about my age and with my coloring. She’s there to spend time with the elephant. I ask her if she comes up here every day to visit, but she tells me that she’s only able to come up every other day for a few minutes. I think that the elephant needs more time than that. It’s otherwise alone up here. I worry for its loneliness and lack of companionship. Then there is a bear. The baby elephant gets distracted. The big brown bear is in a wooden trailer, heading towards the wall opposite us. The trailer is making noise like the low rumbles of an adult elephant, and the baby bounds after the trailer. Then, I’m shocked to see the bear go head first into what I know is a shredder, or meat grinder. I gasp. I watch the baby elephant jump in too. Both are immediately dead and bloody. I see their bodies deflate, as if all that is left of them is their skin. I am so sad, and I turn away.
A: Oh dear, what an image. This makes me sad too. What’s been happening in your life for these images to arise?
You noted that the elephant is getting only very sparse attention and you reflect, “I worry for its loneliness and lack of companionship.” As a dream’s elements are all elements of one’s own psyche, I wonder if you have been feeling only intermittently cared for yourself, lonely and without the relationships you’d like. What playful aspect of you has been relegated to a corner of your life, like a rarely visited room you once knew well?
I’ve noticed that dreams of elephants often arise with the beginnings or endings of intimate relationships, so I’m drawn in particular to this mention of companionship in the dream. I inquired with you about this aspect of your life. You told me that you had just spent the night with someone new when you had this dream, and that you were feeling uncertain about your emotions in the days following. I can only imagine, given the way the dream ends, that you were indeed experiencing some mixed feelings and perhaps hurt. The image of the bear and the elephant being deflated makes me wonder about your own sense of emotional deflation, like having the wind and momentum of life taken out of your sails.
The archetypal layers of this dream are very interesting. I was intrigued by the association of intimacy and elephants in dreams, so I did some research into the symbol and was further struck by the correlation. In Hindu philosophy and metaphysics, the elephant is associated with the root chakra Muladhara, located at the base of the spine. This chakra, one of seven points in the body thought of as centers of vital energy, is said to govern sexuality, mental stability, and sensuality. It is the base of Kundalini energy, the place from which that fire of life initially rises; it is for this reason that sexuality plays a major role in tantric traditions. Sexuality can create physical life in the form of new conception, but it also can kickstart new energetic life and awakening in each individual. In Buddhist mythology, it is said that an elephant calf is responsible for Buddha’s conception when it caressed Queen Maya’s body with its trunk while she slept. Conception and awakening in one.
The Muladhara chakra is also associated to the color red, a color that Jung described in his exploration of Kundalini philosophy as “the color of blood, of dark passion” (Kundalini Seminar, p. 17). This association provides a twist (a less upsetting one) on the appearance of the blood within the dream. The red is an inherent aspect of this chakra energy associated with the elephant, suggesting here more an emergence of passion and life energy than the destruction felt within the dream. (For more exploration into the image of blood in dreams, read this dream interpretation from March.)
Is it possible that while you were feeling a bit mixed-up after your recent evening, you might also be feeling a new energy for life these days? I found the information on the Muladhara chakra fascinating and hope you’ll continue to learn more about it on your own. There is a strong correlation here between the activity of your physical body and the reflections of your psyche, one which might be a gateway to greater insight.
Exploring the symbolism and diving into the literature around the various images in your dream will almost certainly provide you with greater connections and kickstart some wonderful creativity too. Dreams can provide tremendous comfort when you discover an image that, by its very emergence, provides insight into your life. If you haven’t experienced that feeling yet, dive in and start exploring. Perhaps that too is the attention your baby elephant desires.
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
This piece originally published on Mac’s List
The pursuit of a college education may be a long-term blessing and a short-term affliction. A bachelor’s degree provides some economic freedom, but it does not always offer clarity on who you are or who you want to be. If you’re like most people who pursued higher education, you grew up with every stage of life laid out in front of you: kindergarten led to first grade and so on. It was not until the precipice of college graduation that you were expected to figure it all out on your own.
The desperate search for one’s own passion may be derided as a crisis of privilege, a “First World problem,” but the existential call to be the writer of one’s own destiny is deeply human. The urge towards the creative life is innate in all of us. When we are no longer chased by wolves or the threat of starvation, we are chased by ourselves.
The cries “be who you are!” and “know who you are!” are not easily silenced, and attempts to do so will only transform into addictions, foul moods, and physical complications.
So how do you figure out what you want and who you are? In the early 20th century, the poet Rainier Marie Rilke wrote to a despondent 19-year-old young man in “Letters to a Young Poet” with timeless counsel for job seekers everywhere: “There is only one thing you should do,” Rilke wrote. “Go into yourself.”
Esoteric? Sure. You cannot easily place this advice among a list of things to do. But if the advice is understood and heeded, the ultimate rewards are unparalleled.
Through self-inquiry and good counsel, answers to the tangible questions of life begin to make themselves heard. Your anxiety and confusion, your headaches and stomachaches, all have information for what may be off track, they’re not simply symptoms to be silenced in the pursuit of the more conscious goals.
If you can learn when you’re off track by how your moods and body respond, you can learn too where your path lies. This takes some degree of faith, to be sure, but it only takes a few synchronistic successes for you to discover that you have a personal GPS sitting inside your chest.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell’s famous adage echoes Rilke’s: “When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you wouldn’t have thought there were doors.” Campbell uses the word “bliss” as a substitute for instinct, a path not lacking in terror and uncertainty but ultimately providing the greatest payoff. Our wants often only become clear after listening to all the other stuff of life.
In fairy tales, it is the awkward third brother who wanders off in the least anticipated direction, listening to the animals and following the path of a windswept feather, who ultimately finds the gold and marries the princess. Going into yourself and following your bliss means learning to listen to who you are innately. Learning what you’re passionate about begins with discovering and acknowledging who you are, not simply what you are expected to be.
This piece originally published on Mac’s List – April 19, 2013