This is the right-brain companion to my last crazy scientist dream post, which was giving you the fun theory of how I’ve gradually come, over the last 15+ years, to read some of my recurring, bewildering, intense, deep dream symbols as compass needles pointing me to dangers and potentials inherent in the various types of energies governing my psyche and thus, my life’s direction. If you haven’t read it, I recommend checking it out to make more sense of this one.
Because here comes the personal stories part.
Intense dream series in depression
Which most of you might prefer to the left-brain theory part, but hey, I need to have my own fun, too.
Writing about dreams occurred to me because yesterday I reflected on depression and how, finally, after years (?) of questioning specific recurrent, graphically distressing dreams that would haunt me in those phases, but seem out-of-context and extreme, I found the key to them in a book. (You can read about that at the very bottom of Is depression a choice?.)
The symbol family: precious, fragile, young animals
Now, this morning, I woke up, for some reason, completely non-depressed. Rather, calm, solid, buoyant, energetic. And – I’d had a dream. Another one from a series that reaches back at least a decade, and whose meaning I’d gradually come to fathom and approximate (using the methods described here.)
This family of dream symbols was related to animals; these included frogs, dogs (specifically, my dog, a young copy of it, or my grandmother’s dog), tiny birds, and bugs – and possibly more that I can’t recall.
Dreams from this family would always have spectacular, hyper-real visuals (brilliant colours and composition, 3D and almost tactile, or actually tactile, detail) and be shaking me up emotionally, to the core, despite really not seeming to have any dramatic content.
The basic script: squashing beetles
So here is the general script for this dream family:
There is a small, vulnerable creature of some sort. This can be any of the above mentioned animals, but often it’s shrunk down so small that it easily fits into the palm of a hand, or – like in Alice in Wonderland – it becomes so small that it’s barely visible, fragile, and seeps through my fingers.
The recurrent emotional tone is that this creature is very precious; I want to cherish or protect it; perhaps I want to protect it in my cusped hands, or bring it to a safer place.
The other recurrent emotional and tactile motive is this: that the more I try, the more fragile the creature becomes; there is seeping or squashing; my palms end up crushing the being, or suffocating it; or it falls and I’m in danger of stepping on it; or – somehow – the more I try to hold it, the smaller and more fragile it becomes, impossible to hold, and every movement could damage it – or it simply disappears, like a dream that I wanted to grasp to, but that evaporated.
In the dream, the feeling of squashing this being with my seemingly clumsy, heavy hands is always poignantly distressing – in the dream, I feel it in an almost tactile manner; it gives me unpleasant shivers, frantic panic, even the physical contortion of disgust as I feel how I physically squash this creature.
That often wakes me up.
Variations on the theme
The painful version of this – then totally puzzling – dream kept cycling for years and years.
But in the last years, different versions have started to appear. Versions in which the mystic animal stays big a bit longer; it stays alive a bit longer; I get to hold it for a few more moments.
Then, in the next round of the dream, I squash it again.
Then, perhaps I can look at it for a bit. And so in waves.
This morning’s dream was special.
It followed the basic script: I messed up animal care. I had accidentally, somehow, locked my dog, who was still a small, vulnerable puppy, away in a classroom of my secondary school. Then some great commotion happened, I went on a long surreal class trip or whatever, and I forgot about it; just abandoned it.
Then with a pang of remorse, pain, and a thought of panic I recalled it – I had left the miserable creature locked away without food, water, or an open window for forever – was it even still alive? In what decrepit state may I find it? My stomach, heart, and conscience turned at the mere thought.
But I got back to the school somehow, somehow made out the classroom in the maze-like corridors, opened the door – and lo and behold, the dog was fully alive, happy, and trustful. After years? It had big friendly eyes, and I could hold it and take it out of there.
The compass needle
Now I can’t explain this process beyond what I’ve written in the previous post; but gradually, over the years, with this method I’ve come to sense what this animal is; and when I’m squashing it in real life.
Initially I had no words for it; I just sensed it in my gut. Vaguely.
But I recognised the feeling – of fragile, magical vitality versus a kind of robotic heavy-handedness; I started to sense that there were these separate parts of me.
But I didn’t know what exactly the animal was; I understood that it must be some primal, non-verbal part of me, deeply tied to Nature, perhaps. But what the heck exactly?
I also understood that I was constantly (unintentionally) committing some grave mistake; at least this part of the message seemed clear. But for the heck of it I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
Or how to do it right.
Gradual soul retrieval
Now the “click” that happened this morning is really hard to describe verbally, because all this communication with dreams, for me, happens on a visceral, felt level, somewhere between the emotions, the body, and the intuition, let’s call it.
But I understood what I had done right yesterday.
What I was starting to do right.
This may not be meaningful to you if you aren’t me (as you have your own dreams 😉 ), but my current state of understanding is that this animal embodies something along the lines of the soul, my inner Dao, or instinct – not in the sense of something brute, but of an inner flow of knowledge as to what to do: how to survive, live, grow (and perhaps die) according to one’s nature – all by somehow knowing, not thinking it up.
I could also say that it incarnates spontaneity and flow – not in a trivial sense, but in the sense of the deep inner flow of energy that gives us vitality.
I could probably have looked that up in C. G. Jung, but I wouldn’t have made sense of it years ago; before I’d learnt to actually sense it; acquire a visceral feeling for this energy that appears in visual form in dreams, but appears just the same – except its not visual, but visceral – in my waking life; and manifests outward.
Having been in dialogue with this dream for a decade, I feel that I can trust its appearance in this new shape as a strong signal that I have been doing something right; specifically, that yesterday I managed to evade the stranglehold I usually have on my soul – somewhat (after all, it’s still a small puppy).
This is good to know. Because I know what I was doing (internally) yesterday that probably made the difference. I’ll try to do it again.