Q: I’m at the coast in Oregon. I’m looking at the stunning ocean from a large hill a few hundred yards from the shore. There’s not a single person in sight, as if I’m the only human for hundreds of miles. I look behind me and see a huge, regal grizzly bear running in full sprint out of the woods towards me. I immediately begin sprinting down the hill towards the ocean. When I reach the sand, I begin running south. I know there’s nowhere to hide. Then all of a sudden I see a glass structure that is blended in with the environment. I run towards the large glass doors and walk in. The inside is clean and immaculately beautiful, you can everything outside from inside. There is a tall man with his back to me and his hands clasped behind him. It’s as if he’s been waiting for me. I can’t see his face. He’s wearing dark colors and may have a cloak over him, though he’s non-threatening. I walk towards him. When I get close, he turns towards me and takes a few steps in my direction. He opens his hands and reveals little rocks and pills on his palm. “This is your Bear Medicine,” he tells me.
Whoa. What a dream! This is the kind of dream from which movies are made. In fact… despite the very different setting, the similarities in the final scene of your dream and Neo’s first encounter with Morpheus in The Matrix cannot go unmentioned. Neo is directed towards a room in which Morpheus is waiting for him; Morpheus opens his hands to reveal Neo’s choices. Which pill will you take? And what happens next?
But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let’s start at the beginning, with a little insight from Dr. Jung on dreams with a theme like your own: “When you dream of a savage bull, or a lion, or a wolf pursuing you, this means: it wants to come to you. You would like to split it off, you experience it as something alien, but it just becomes all the more dangerous. . . .The best stance would be: ‘Please, come and devour me!’ . . . The Other within us becomes a bear, a lion, because we made it into that. Once we accept this, it becomes something else” (Children’s Dreams, p. 19).
The bear is a part of you that has been split off from your conscious identity. And the bear, I would argue, transformed into that incredible, mysterious man at the end of your dream. He was seeking contact with you and got it. In one form, he sent you towards the glass home and in another, he greeted you there. I’ll share with our readers that you are a man in your early thirties. If you were a woman, this Morpheus figure at the end of your dream might be more like the Oracle, a wise old woman with esoteric wisdom. It is the inner aspect which guides you, whether you are aware of it or not. It is an aspect to which you are advised to listen.
In the beginning of the dream, you are admiring the beautiful ocean, staring into the vast unconscious. No one else is around, suggesting that what happens next is for you and you alone. This is not about relationships or the collective, but your own primal wholeness. Some part of you that has been cut off is trying to regain contact.
You might look back at a recent dream interpretation I wrote involving a bear for some insight into the bear in your dream. I think there are helpful parallels there. Concisely, the bear might be seen as a representation of the feminine instinctual sphere. The realm of being versus doing, of embodiment versus spirit. The bear is the Great Mother; while a figure similar to Poseidon would represent the god of the oceans, a powerful bear can be seen as a god of the earth. In this case, the bear is also representing shadow material as it explicitly appears from behind you, where your shadow follows you around. Similarly the bear comes out of the woods, a setting which can be thought of as the physical unconscious. It is a place of earthly darkness, of mystery and potential danger. As the bear is coming from the woods, it is suggested that the physical, embodied, earthly realm is where your shadow resides.
The bear runs towards you. It chases you down the hill and you are forced into lower levels of consciousness until you nearly reach the ocean itself. Then a glass structure appears, which you find beautiful. You enter it. Glass walls or containers in dreams can indicate our separation from emotion: you can see whatever is behind it clearly but you can’t feel it. Connecting with what is inside is important.
Your life and work pull you towards both the intellect and spirit, so I wonder if the physical and emotional realms are not seeking more attention from you. As we move through life and gain intellectual and spiritual consciousness, we can also begin to devalue our embodiment. It’s worth asking yourself: Are you remembering to play? To dance and be silly? To save space in your life for love and romance and embodied life? Think of what the gods would do on the first day they found physical form. What do they think about when they long for embodiment and mortality?
As a nod to the collective unconscious, your dream parallels many myths in which there is a glass house, often where an old man is waiting inside. This wise man in your dream offers you medicine, something to ingest. He hands you pills and rocks which he refers to as Bear Medicine. In the language of dreams, I would argue that this is about you incorporating the bear into yourself, an act which will then protect you from being devoured by the bear. A common theme in fairy tales is the ingestion of bear meat, the incorporation of the bear’s power; your dream imagery parallels this theme. The rocks, like the glass vessel in which you and this wise old man stand, might be viewed as an alchemical symbol: the Philosopher’s Stone. “This is your opus,” your wise old man seems to be telling you. This is very important work in your life, to integrate your bear, your primal shadow, your earthly self. You are asked to descend, not run higher, and you are asked to eat the earthly stones and the bear. This is your healing. Reconnect with your grounded, emotional, vulnerable, earth bound self, those aspects of you for which the gods are envious.
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 on a rural farm or in a kind of carnival area and a girl in her late teens or early twenties has been chasing after me. She runs into a concession stand with a window that can shut. I want to vanquish her, to get her to stop. I have a dish towel that I’ve formed into a bag with glass shards in it. I throw the bag into the stand where she is. Just as I throw it, I realize I’ve given her ammo. She starts coming after me and the people around me, my boyfriend, family, and others who I want to protect. She’s trying to cut us with little bits of glass, throwing them at us one-by-one.
A: Thank you for sharing this dream, it’s an excellent one for demonstrating how our unconscious can show us parts of our behavior and attitudes of which we’re not yet consciously aware. Dreams come to us from the unconscious, but that doesn’t mean a place of just repressed memories or nonsense from the day. As I’ll explore with this dream, the unconscious, or “not-yet-conscious” mind, stores a great deal of information about the world and who we are that we’ve just not yet been able to see and integrate. Seeing what’s in “the back of the brain” can be like seeing your back in a mirror: it’s different than what you see every day when you see your front side, but it’s as much you as the other and it helps to provide a more complete picture of who you are.
In this dream, a girl is chasing you. Based on the content of what you told me about, I anticipated correctly that this young woman was either dark skinned or had dark hair. Why? Because you’re a blond woman, and the structure of this dream clearly indicates that this is a shadow figure for you. Dreams have patterns and a sort of physics to them that, once learned, can allow certain predictions on the actions and traits of characters involved.
So what does it mean that she’s a shadow figure for you? In the dream, your conscious attitude of yourself, represented by the “I” character, is in opposition to her. You two are in conflict. She represents an aspect of yourself that is in conflict with how you see yourself and your behavior, and she is trying to get your attention. When attempting to destroy her, your method of assault backfired, and instead of getting rid of her, you provided her with ammunition to hurt you and those you care about. There is a part of you that knows that an aspect of your character has been damaging those around you somehow, and the methods you’ve used so far to try to get rid of her have only caused more harm. This part of you is throwing shards of glass at your boyfriend and people you care about. One by one.
What does this mean? To be throwing shards of glass? That gesture of throwing shards, tiny pieces of glass, evokes a style of communication like nagging or picking, or saying little, mean comments. They’re “small” words, like comments from a teenage girl who doesn’t yet know the damage her words are causing. “They’re just little pieces of glass,” you might try to rationalize, but we know the phrase “death by a thousand cuts”; enough little jabs, and our relationships suffer. We can hurt people with accidental, emotional commentary. Sometimes, we can fool ourselves that our behavior with others is no big deal, but all of the emotions and mean comments build-up. We can end up attacking just the people we consciously see ourselves as intending to protect. Specifically, that the glass was wrapped in a dish towel suggests to me that these comments may be wrapped in the form of trying to help and “clean things up” somehow. It seems that wrapped inside your attempts to help others or make things better, may be comments that feel like criticisms instead.
I will share with our readers that we discussed this dream at some length, and you had some important insights about your communication, especially with your boyfriend. “I’m glad we talked about that glass,” you reported the next day. As the dreamer, you instinctively know what those symbols mean in your life. They speak to you personally once they’ve been explored. This isn’t heady intellectualism or nonsense symbology, it resonates. Perhaps now with some insight, you’ll be able to vanquish this attacking-girl for real. She was trying to get your attention, and she has. By acknowledging her, you can now truly protect those around you who have been in harm’s way.
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