On Monday I started examining a dream that had symbols defying an easy understanding:
A woman’s dream
I’m at a social gathering—like a cocktail party—with lots of people, some of whom I know. Everyone is in a jovial mood. I look around and see that a special friend of mine, Gus, is there with his favorite dog. I’m delighted to see them because it has been quite a while since we last had contact. But even though the party is lively and upbeat, I also notice that there are bullets flying around all over. I am not hit by one, but I do feel a sense of unease. Somehow I have a premonition that one is going to head right for me, so I step out of the way. The bullet whizzes past where I had just been standing and it hits the dog, killing it. I feel a tremendous sense of guilt knowing that, had I not stepped out of the way, the dog would still be alive.
Revealing the metaphors in each symbol
Each symbol represents an idea that is expressed through metaphor. The first task is to discover what that metaphor is. This will be different for each dreamer, so the only person who can unlock the metaphoric meaning is the dreamer herself. I usually start with a neutral question, like, “Tell me about it.” Then, if I need more detail or a different kind of answer, I will gently ask for elaboration. The following result is typical.
Tell me about…
* Social gathering: a lot of friends all in one place having a good time
* Cocktail party: Relaxing and letting off tensions with drinks
* People I know: My social network
* Jovial: Merry, happy
* Look around: Become aware of my surroundings
* Special friend Gus: He was a mentor to me when I was younger. He was like a father to me.
* Favorite dog: Dogs are companions. They give love and help protect. This one was very special to * Gus.
* Delighted: Thrilled
* Long time no contact: I was out of touch and I missed him.
* Bullets: Lethal projectiles. They’re designed to kill living things.
* Unease: uncomfortable, and I have misgivings
* Premonition: I know something is going to happen before it does.
* Step away: I was moving out of the line of fire.
* Bullet whizzes past: I barely escaped being wounded or killed.
* Kills dog: Gus’s special friend and companion ceased to exist.
* Tremendous guilt: I took responsibility for something bad.
* Dog could be alive: There might have been a different outcome.
Often, after the dreamer has described the metaphors, an observer can look down the list of the dreamer’s comments, for example “A lot of friends all in one place having a good time,” and get a sense of the dream’s message. In this dream, that’s more difficult, so we’ll need to formally reassemble the dream. In the meantime, we can see that there is some sort of conflict with guilt and a (metaphoric) death involved.
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