Q: I am in an academic setting, like a boarding school, and I am not allowed to leave. My mom is there. Two authority figures (at least one of whom was a man) are telling me that they are removing my eye. I am protesting and showing them that I already gave a tooth. They are very adamant and even my mom is saying that I have to do it. I’m furious and frustrated in the dream and continue to argue with them to the point where I am weeping and screaming.
A: Whew! This dream is quite upsetting! I feel chills when I read it, and can imagine you waking-up nervous and terrified. What do those people want from you??
Exploring this dream with you provided a reminder of what’s laying just below the surface of our awareness. We let ourselves acknowledge some of what we’re experiencing in our day-to-day lives, and a lot of the rest of what happens we choose to avoid or aren’t able to fully integrate. You initially shrugged and laughed when you shared this dream: “I think it’s about my student loan debt,” you told me. Hrm. I had my doubts. The emotions in this dream are far too strong to associate with the stress of student loans, unless you anticipate you’ll be on the street soon as a result.
What does resonate with the stress of student loans, however, is the feeling of being owned by someone else because of what they expect from you. The feeling that you are obligated to continue giving of yourself, despite having given a lot already. How does that ring true for you in other ways? When we discussed this, deep waves of emotion began to come to the surface. Things began to sink in for you. You’re a new mother, and between your beloved baby and your husband and the expectations at home, you’re being pulled in a million different directions. There’s a sense of infantilization, of imprisonment. Just take a moment to imagine the feeling of being in a boarding school today and being unable to leave! Just that opening feels a bit like a horror film. Then the dream continues, and you wake up crying and pleading for the authority figures to stop. The injustice of what is being asked of you is palpable.
You did not anticipate feeling so emotional after sharing the dream. As we talked more about what’s been going on in your life, some of the stress shifted into the truer, softer emotions underneath. Emotions that haven’t had much chance to be felt or seen will build-up and “harden.” In the same way that your shoulder may tighten due to stress, thoughts and emotions that aren’t integrated fully can begin to form a knot, a psychic complex, showing-up as characters in your dreams. Exploring the images from dreams can start to loosen-up those knots and allow the emotions caught within them to release.
I asked you about the appearance of your mom in the dream. Why her? As the lone familiar figure in your dream, her presence is likely to be particularly telling. We explored the history of her marriage to your dad and what similar themes may be getting activated for you now. You know some of the history of what was happening in their relationship when you were a baby. Are there feelings of carrying too much of the weight at home? Feelings of losing your independence? You nodded. Much of your former life as a single woman feels unrecognizable at the moment. We discussed this, and discussed what you’ve had to give-up.
There is a great deal of symbolism within the particular images of giving up a tooth, and forcibly losing an eye. These are big ones! As I’ve explored previously, losing a tooth in a dream can point to major life changes (we know those are present), and losing an eye can point to a sense of disorientation, of being rendered blind. You might feel that your ability to vision, to dream, to imagine a new life is being stolen from you. Your imagination, your artful creative side may feel rather distant at the moment. These images also point to the familiar Talmudic saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” pointing to notions of equal justice. It makes me wonder further, is there a sense of your needing to atone for something? Maybe a latent guilt that should be explored? Or does it suggest Gandhi’s response, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” maybe pointing to battles with your husband that will only hurt you both? These questions take us down another path, but there’s much here left to explore.
My advice? Don’t shirk the emotions around what’s happening in your life right now. Do your best to feel what’s happening these days, even if there’s not much time for it and it seems unimportant to do so. You may not be able to fully control events these days (I’m not sure we ever are), but the way they’re affecting you is real. Talk with your mom about her emotions when she was in this phase of life. Explore, even when it feels silly, your own emotions around what’s happening at home. Allow yourself to feel sad versus just getting mad and frustrated. The loss you’re experiencing is real. The adjustments to this new phase are big. Allow yourself to really listen to the softer layers of what’s going on inside your chest, and behind your eyes. You might be surprised that it will soften the actual events and communication at home as well.
Do you have a question about your dreams? Send me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Satya is a 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. For more information about therapy services in Portland, visit: www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com
Q: I have a recurring dream that I have gum wrapped around my back teeth and am trying to get it out. It feels like a lot of gum, and sometimes it will start to go down my throat, which really freaks me out. I feel anxious that it’s there. Sometimes, I am trying to get the gum out of my mouth because I’m doing something in which I need to speak.
Q: I have a recurring dream that there is gum in my throat, a thick wad of it, and I’m desperate to get it out of my mouth. The more I pull, the more gum keeps coming. It never ends and I’m totally freaked out.
A: Whew! Here we have two different women, living in different states, who reported to me their primary recurring dream. Forgive me for being a bit of a nerd here, but is this not just the most fascinating thing? Many people have heard of the common back-in-school and teeth-falling-out dreams and might be de-sensitized to how very strange it is that we can dream very similar dreams at night. But it really is pretty amazing. How does that happen?? What is the unconscious (collective or personal) representing here? What human experience is being captured by these images?
Let’s explore this dream viscerally. To start unlocking this dream, imagine yourself in this situation. Imagine you’re in public and you have a huge wad of gum in your throat and in the back of your mouth that (of course) you really want to get out. You try to remove it… you begin to get anxious… the gum’s not easily coming out… there’s a lot of it… it keeps coming… What do you do? How do you protect yourself? What are the types of fear that arise?
In this dream, the ability to speak has been thwarted. One’s mouth and throat are all gummed-up. The capacity for self-expression has been prevented and shoved aside by more complicated feelings of fear, shame, and insecurity. As one is privately managing a fear that she is in a strange, maybe dangerous situation, out of control of what’s happening, she is simultaneously trying not to let others know of her predicament out of shame. She is in a “sticky situation,” managing her own fear while trying not to let others catch-on.
The images in this dream are representing certain inner experiences; as it’s a recurring dream, those inner experiences are likely rather persistent and common to the individual: a difficulty with authentic self-expression, with finding one’s true voice, and therefore feelings of insecurity, of being alone with one’s own emotions despite being among people, and feeling that things are not easily within one’s own control.
To you two beautiful ladies who dreamt this dream (should my analysis of it prove at all true), you might consider playing with this dream a little to alter it and take care of yourself in the process. Dream it forward. You’ve got gum stuck in your throat, you’re anxious and panicked, but you don’t have to deal with this very strange crisis by yourself. Imagine the dream and add someone in who you trust completely and who you can look to for help. How do they react? What do they do? What do you need? What help can they offer? See what arises and explore what comes next…
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