The symbols of some dreams are fairly straight forward and can be deciphered with little analysis. But the majority of dreams are more obscure and defy a quick understanding. This week, I’ll look closely at a perplexing dream like that.
The dreamer is a woman.
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.
So what’s this dream about?
Perhaps that’s the wrong question to start with. More appropriate—and simpler—is to begin by pointing out what this dream is definitely not about: It’s not about bullets. It’s not a prophesy about a terrorist attack. It’s not about killing a dog. It’s not even about a party.
Often when we dream, we are emotionally invested in the dream’s events and have a hard time separating ourselves from them. Dreams tend to be dramatic, and like any good movie or play, the plots and events we have just witnessed stay with us for a while. With a movie, that can be fun. But with a dream, it’s important, at some point, to emotionally walk away from the plot. Dreams have a message, and the first step in uncovering that message is to understand that dreams speak in their own peculiar language. That language is the language of metaphor, and any dreamer needs to step far enough away from the drama to clinically analyze the dream’s symbols. That is especially important with a dream like this that defies easy and immediate understanding.
So let’s extract the symbols and take a look at them. I like to tell participants in my dream classes that finding the symbols is a lot like taking shorthand. Imagine that the dream is being told to you out loud and you have to write quickly to keep up with the narrative. Your paper might look like this: social gathering; cocktail party; people I know; jovial; look around; special friend Gus; favorite dog; delighted; long time no contact; bullets; unease; premonition; step away; bullet whizzes past; kills dog; tremendous guilt; dog could be alive.
On Wednesday, we’ll begin the process of unlocking the metaphor that each of these symbols contains.
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