In my last post I was working with a dreamer who had an upsetting dream about a favorite toddler dying. When we restated the dream in its metaphoric translation, the dream had a specific and intense message. I summarized the dream message for the dreamer in the hope that it might trigger an association for her—some way to relate its message to something going on in her life. I said, “Some new, lighthearted part of yourself that you love being with is suddenly taken away from you, and you are shocked.” She couldn’t relate to this. She felt that her life was fine, that there was nothing going on that would warrant such an extreme and upsetting dream.
Finding a connection to the dream message
Did the dreamer draw a blank simply because the dream was off base? That is unlikely. It is more probable that she is unaccustomed to making connections between dreams and the stresses in her life. That is common.
I began to explore, gently, what issues she might be grappling with. This has to be done carefully. It’s easy for a dream analyst to “dig” aggressively into someone’s life and “plant” ideas there. The following paraphrase is the gist of our conversation.
“Is there anything unusual going on in your life right now?”
“No, not particularly; just the same old routine.”
“Anything weighing on you that might take some of the lightheartedness of life away?”
“Not really. Life always has some bumps in it, but that’s just normal.”
“Do you have any bumps at the moment?”
“Well, there’s one: My father-in-law is dying.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. Is it unexpected?”
“Actually, it’s been going on for months. About the time we think he won’t make it another day, he rallies, and then the whole thing starts over. It’s exhausting. It’s taking huge chunks of my husband’s time—usually in the evenings when our family would normally be together.”
“What effect has that had on you?”
“Well, I mean, I end up being the sole parent dealing with our three kids. It adds to my workload, I’m tired, and I have very little time for myself.”
“Would it be fair to say that some of the more pleasurable aspects of your life have been put on hold for the moment?”
“That would be an understatement.”
“Might that be what your dream is about?” (Pause.) “I mean, the dream message was that a lighthearted part of yourself was suddenly taken away. Isn’t that what’s happened?”
“I never thought of it that way. But maybe, yes.”
“If this dream were mine, I’d wonder if I didn’t need to find some way—even with all of my added responsibilities—to do something fun. Maybe buy myself an ice cream cone or go to a movie.”
The dream message was directly related to a conflict in this dreamer’s life; it was only that she didn’t make the connection at first. That happens a lot.
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