I’m examining a dream about a favorite toddler who appeared dead in a dream. The dreamer was so upset by the dream imagery that she had difficulty stepping back to more clinically analyze the dream message; this dream has nothing to do with the death of a child. Even then, it took a while before the dreamer understood how the message related to herself. This can happen, especially when dreams are shocking. We’re going to walk her through the whole dream analysis process to see how her understanding eventually unfolded.
Isolating the symbols
The first minor obstacle was dealing with the way she related the dream. In the italicized paragraphs below, you can see that the dream is related in its entirety in one sentence. The rest of what the dreamer said was all commentary. When we isolate the symbols, what should we include?
This way of relating a dream is really common. Dreamers often “set the scene” in their telling of the experience. When I walk a dreamer through the interpretation process, I include all of the symbols—the ones from the dream itself and the ones that come to light in the dreamer’s commentary. The dream world and “real” life tend to get blended in the telling of dreams, and it is all equally important. Here’s the dream as this dreamer told it:
I have a niece who is two. My own kids are older now, so I love to babysit for her. It brings back lots of memories, and she’s as jolly and as fun as any child I’ve ever had contact with. I just love being with her.
So it really upset me when I had a nightmare about her. It was short, but I woke up in a sweat. I don’t remember much, but the part I do remember was awful. I dreamt that I was looking in her crib, and I saw her lying there. But she was dead.
That’s all I remember, except that I was stunned.
Tell me about…
Now let’s take this series of symbols—from both the dream and her commentary—and see what happens when we put them all together in the “Tell me about it” phase of the interpretation.
* Niece: very close to me, my own flesh and blood
* Two: young, not formed yet
* Older kids: less impressionable, more secure in who they are
* Babysit: I get to spend time for a while
* Memories: I delight in this early phase of development
* Jolly and fun: She brings lightness to me
* Love being with: I look forward to the experience
* Upset me: It was so unexpected and shocking
* Nightmare: It seemed inconceivable; it couldn’t be true
* Woke up: I was in a state of panic
* Sweat: It was all about fear
* Awful: It was supremely uncomfortable
* Crib: A safe place for a toddler to sleep
* Lying there: I knew something was wrong
* Dead: The life was gone from her
We’ll examine these metaphoric interpretations more closely next time.
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