This book opens the reader to the world of the unconscious, the deeper psyche with both its lighter and darker aspects. With sections on universal dream symbols, fantasy creatures, shadow aspects, and nightmares this book provides insights to ones dreams beyond the everyday. It is an encyclopedia of over 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across 140+ countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all possible meanings it can direct both the beginner and journeyman dream interpreter to a broader insight into their unconscious mind and then lead them through the process of applying this information to their everyday life.
Last May (5-7-19) I wrote about the rabbit hole as a metaphor for falling emotionally into an abyss i.e., a feeling of “emotional overwhelm, loss of control, and alienation” and thought I would look at some of the symbols that often appear in dreams that speak to this emotional theme.
Transition symbols in dreams such as a cave, hole, tunnel, or a hallway can lead one into the unconscious and a transformed state. When Alice fell down the rabbit hole she entered a period of confusion and chaos, a place of change and transformation.
“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”
The word “suddenly” is often a clue to a nightmarish quality of impending doom and a feeling of having been caught off guard and made vulnerable. Falling itself has a meaning that speaks to failure, the failure to be cautious. As she fell down the hole she said to herself,
“After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house.”
The “Rabbit Hole” is an allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. To go “down the rabbit hole” is to enter a period of chaos or confusion but also it’s a metaphor for both jumping into something new and stressful and a recreation of ones life from one way of being to another without any knowledge of how it will turn out. It can also have darker meanings that speak to deepening depression and sense of loss.
Let’s look at a few dream symbols frequently associated with this type of dream:
A hole can represent the start of a change—a transformation. Where does it lead?
The cave in a dream often represents inner or hidden issues. It is a part of the underworld, your underworld—the unconscious. What do you find in your cave? What are you keeping hidden? Where does it lead?
A tunnel in a dream speaks to a pathway you may have created into your unconscious, an opening to your innermost feelings and memories. It can also be the way to a birth of something (a rebirth or resurrection of something) as in the birth canal. Where does it lead?
A hallway can reveal how various parts (aspects) of you (your house) connect. A hallway can represent a means for the outside world to enter your intimate life. Where does it lead?
The rabbit hole one enters may also represent regression—a turning inward, sometimes to escape from problems. Wasn’t this what Alice was doing?
All presuppose an entrance which is often seen as a symbol for new experiences, or the passing between of one state of being or feeling into another leading to a new realization. Where does it lead?
They also suggest transit—a symbol for change. Where, or what are you transiting toward?
The rabbit hole as an abyss can be a “symbol of great depth often signaling the profound and infinite.” (Morpheus Speaks, page 6, 2019) It can be about the fear of a loss of control or identity and it’s often a symbol for depression. Where does it lead?
Notice how all the above form their own coherence—the internal logic of your dreams also provides information. Dreams are not just meaningless chaos, unless of course you have one that is just meaningless chaos, and that too means something!
Note also the repeated question, “Where does it lead?” This is the mystery inherent in most dreams (and in life as well?) and in much of the material hidden in one’s unconscious mind that has come to the surface in a dream. What I call Rabbit Hole Dreams can reveal some of the most exciting aspects of the human condition, the human psyche, and the spirit within.
Jogging along a mountain path a panic stricken young man passes me in the opposite direction with a pack of howling dogs hot on his heels. As he careens around the corner a few of the dogs break off from the pursuit and begin to surround me. As I stand there petrified one creeps up behind me and menacingly begins to nip at the back of my neck. I want to run but can’t move. The others start to move in on me and panicked I will myself awake.
Yep it was a good old-fashioned nightmare. These typically come to us when we are not paying attention to something urgent or something threatening in our environment so after writing it down I went looking for what was happening in the waking world that would manifest in my dreams as these attacking dogs.
The night before I watched part of the Impeachment proceedings against the American President. The process has been very upsetting including the President’s behavior up to and including his inappropriate actions that drew the condemnation and investigation that has lead to his being held accountable. His verbal attacks and those of his political party have seemed so vile, vicious, polarizing, and demoralizing that I’ve found it too distressing to watch all that is going on so in order to stay centered in that quieter place within myself I’ve been trying to change the negative narrative in my head. Of course this never works because as with anything we try to suppress or any negative narrative we try to write over it remains waiting for a chance to make itself known like the palimpsests of ancient manuscripts where hidden writings beneath later writing can reveal new and often deeper material.
Many psychologists believe that much of the distasteful material we suppress so that we don’t have to deal with it only festers beneath the surface informing our feelings, beliefs and actions usually in a negative way. In short, this material doesn’t disappear but works its power beneath the surface until we bring it to the light and deal openly with it.
Over time I’ve learned that my dreams have access to this material and will occasionally and in the service of my health and well-being come forth in a nightmare to give me opportunity to deal with it.
Biting dogs can be about disloyalty, aggression (felt or toward another), and/or betrayal. “Biting can also represent ‘biting’ remarks your own or coming from others both of which I find I am doing and feeling. It’s hard to not take the President’s nastiness personally even though he’s not talking about me but he does represent an attack on values, things I hold dear, such as being open and working with others, being civil, empowering and not demeaning others, caring for someone other than myself, honesty, integrity and willingness to work for the greater good. These are things that I think both sides of the current civil unrest could agree upon though the finer definition of each might be negotiable.
The current unrest has been useful I think in that it clearly and keenly highlights what we really value and what can destroy or diminish the expression of that value. It also highlights the negative effects of unchecked, unmanaged, and paralyzing fear, at least in myself. My own undealt with fear has sometimes made me into a biting dog so that it is also I who visits my dreams as a pack of dogs threatening my own well being.
This is another in a series of posts on developing a peace within in order to be a Peacemaker.
As a result of a nightmare my granddaughter and I were discussing, of all things, the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. First of all we had trouble naming them and then ran into the difficulty associated with the word, “Sin”. When you look at their definition you can see that they each have a little of each other in their character and a case can be made that there is a positive embedded within each as well.
Lust- desire, longing, gluttony
Greed- craving, longing, ambitious
Envy- resentment, lusting, longing, ambitious
Gluttony- greed, lust, longing, ambitious
Wrath- anger, indignation, displeasure.
All are extremes of self-regard i.e. self-centeredness, and of the ego-self. When the focus is on the self it has less room for others, and one becomes exclusive rather than inclusive, disconnected rather than connected, and separated versus belonging.
She and I came to the conclusion that short of becoming an ascetic monk each in moderation would bring about greater spiritual, emotional, and psychological harmony than would be available if one were to allow any of them to take one over.
Each of us has an ego, that part of us that we identify as being our self, and each ego is dedicated to the emotional and psychological survival of the self. Notice that I don’t include the spiritual survival of the self for that is of the greater Self, that which includes everything and everyone and that which is not of the body, but transcends the body. To the degree that one walls themselves off from this greater Self through the ego-sustaining activities of the “seven deadly sins” is the degree to which one separates them from the greater Self.
We also decided that when we looked at these so-called “sins” in this way, when we defined them in moderation, that achieving their opposite character was much more attainable.
But then she asked what does one do when they notice that they have been taken over by any of the seven?
My answer comes from having worked for over 30+ years with children and families in a therapeutic environment as well as the work I’ve done on and for myself. To try and eradicate any so-called sin from your behavior only gives it more energy and thus more power over you. In short, abstinence and resistance doesn’t work in the long run because this only suppresses i.e. hides them and allows them to rise once again, usually at the least opportune time. Ultimately these behaviors are but symptoms of inadequately dealt with unmet needs.
Bottom line: Being negative with a symptom only adds to the negativity of the symptom.
The trick is to not try to eradicate them but to get through them. Looking for the motivation behind the “sin” will help you work with it. For example, if you’re feeling lonely and want to feel more connected you might experience anger or envy or greed or even lust when what you really want is to feel connected and cared for. This adds a more positive spin and uses the negative experience of the “sin” as an indicator for ones needs that need to be better met.
In short, sorting out the positives from the negatives is the best way of dealing with the darker aspects of our natures. Rather than fighting with the negatives, walk into them and explore. If the negative comes up a lot, look to see what from the past may have generated it and what from the present has triggered its return.
For example, certain people’s (male or female) will trigger great annoyance in me. “Annoyance” in this case becomes my indicator that a ‘complex’ associated with my mother’s hypercritical nature has been triggered and that I’m responding to the feeling of being unaccepted. This feeling of insufficiency or “less than” often triggers a version of one or more of the “sins”, usually pride or wrath. I suggest that the trigger for all of the sins is some experience of insufficiency and the need to bring balance or equilibrium to that.
I had a very restless night recently. There was lots of conflict and judgment, demeaning putdowns and threats that had me waking up every couple of hours. Definitely my soul was not at peace this night and it continued into my next meeting of the morning.
“Blessed are the Peacemakers.” What is Peace? Is it something without conflict? Is it something outside ourselves that can be attained if certain actions are taken? Can you be an effective Peacemaker if you yourself are not at peace? Can there be any peace within you if you are without forgiveness? If you are conflicted with parts of yourself warring with each other, can you be at peace? Do you need to be at peace with all parts of yourself in order to be a Peace Maker?
These are pretty heady questions and came up during a recent men’s group discussing the Beatitudes of the Christian New Testament. I think that the consensus was that the degree to which one could be at peace with their own shadows, their own demons and struggles–the degree to which one has been able to reconcile with ones inner conflicts–is the degree to which one can be an effective Peace-maker.
To protest with a placard, stump for money and believe in the goal of Peace-making does not alone a Peace Maker make. One needs to work on their own shadow nature, their own inner animal.This is not to say that one cannot be a Peace Maker until they’ve handled all their issues, we wouldn’t have anybody working toward peace if that were true. It is just so much easier when we don’t have ourselves as an obstacle to peace i.e., when we are able to identify in ourselves that which keeps conflict stuck in the world.
One of the advantages of the dreamtime is that it will present our hidden shadows without protection, just the raw demon in all its scales and warts. Once one has committed to dealing honestly with these parts of themselves in a compassionate way it is surprising how their negative energy that worked against them can be integrated toward a greater personality less run by fear and more through true free-will.
My wife and I have worked with elementary school children in conflict resolution i.e., how to deal with bullies on the playgrounds of life but we don’t work with the children on how to deal with their inner bully. Failure, off-handed parental negatives, and mean comments on the playground all take their toll and help to create an inner bully that can wreak havoc on a child’s self-image.
We try to build up a child’s self-image but all children notice when one child is favored over another or that some children appear to be gifted with one talent or another. We want to reward the child who does well but doesn’t this also reinforce comparison i.e. “look at what you are not” or “You could be like Johnny or Sarah if you just worked hard enough”. But the child knows that’s not always true and another chink is gouged out of their esteem.
And what about the lie that all of us can be anything we want to be? What happens when we discover that we aren’t good enough or don’t have the requisite talents to be what we want to be and what about those who don’t live in the right neighborhood?
It’s inevitable that life will chip away at our esteem and help create an inner image of self that is less than our ideal or doesn’t stand up to the promise that society presents us. These failure images eventually take on a darkness that is hard to shine a light on so most of us won’t bother and relegate these shadows to the hidden reaches of our minds. But although hidden that doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to affect our lives.
Now I’m not suggesting that we open these cans of worms with young children but teaching them how to handle their own fears and anger and inner right and wrong conflicts, and personal failures and negatives might help them to be more at peace with themselves and perhaps be more peaceful adults. To have peace in the world requires that we work on ourselves that is, to work on where peace really resides.
A true Peace Maker I believe needs to work on being peaceful within themselves as well as doing what they can outside themselves to create a more peaceful world. This adds more meaning to the phrase, “Be the change you want”.
Why am I lying here trying to convince myself that there’s no hope left? Well you see if it’s gone, then it won’t hang around and taunt me. And it’s always taunting, hiding, promising, and just out of reach.
Hope is like a smoldering cinder that never takes flame but lurks in the burned out fires of my soul driving me onward in search of something to ignite and burst once again into the conflagration that was my youth. But hope hurts especially when its object never comes to pass.
So what is this little glimmer that still burns at the bottom of my soul?
Maybe it’s the magic I’ve so craved and so needed, maybe it will be right around the next corner.
Maybe the awe will return. Maybe it’ll all come into focus and then I’ll know there WAS some purpose.
Death images in dreams are probably the most frequent of all the dreams I receive, making up easily 30%. Some are simply an image of a dead person, or a visit from a beloved family member, a killing or being killed but some dreams are much more complex and speak to a much broader spectrum of issues dealing with death. Such is the dream I share below.
The following is a dream sent to me with names and places redacted. For flow, I’ve also made some grammatical changes.
Hi Bob, let’s just get straight to the Dream…I had this dream that my eldest Daughter (31 yrs) died. I was working in some kind of huge factory type job and anytime something big happened that ends-up on the front page of the newspaper, my job showed it on a very large screen, it showed my daughters name in French, then slowly the picture came of my daughter, a side view picture of her, dead. Her hair was tied up in a bun and she was wearing a blue denim jacket. She wasn’t lying down in the picture but kind of propped-up and entangled in ropes, no cuts or bruises, nothing, and her eyes were closed. She seemed to be in a container of some sort with a glass front lid, and either my other daughter ____________ or her own daughter _______ was with her but I couldn’t see them, I just knew that she wasn’t alone. There was no talking at all in this dream either. I saw her being lifted up out of the water in this container and could see the water pouring down over her face even though she was in this container, then someone’s voice which sounded strong and demanding said to me ”_________ never under-estimate the power of your Psychic abilities”. End of dream…I woke myself up from the dream by my own screaming and crying-out for my Daughter at 6:19am Friday morning last. When I tried to go back to sleep later-on the same dream just started off again same as before, I stayed awake, didn’t want to sleep then. Most of that day I felt really distressed about it all and cried a lot. I really felt in some way that I should have been mourning!!! Even though this was just a dream. I felt drained all day and real upset. My Daughter lives in __________. we talk often on the phone. I phoned her that Friday night and she was fine. In the past I have been known to dream of events that have actually happened to non-family and family members in real life!!!! My relationship with my Partner is strained, he almost died 2 years ago, and was in hospital for 3 months, I looked after him 24/7, he is 58 yrs old, and seems happy he never has to work again in his life, he has no zest for life at all… four months before this, my Sister died in hospital, and the 8 years before that again was a very difficult time too with deaths and cancer in my family. My Daughter __________ (25 yrs old) is talking about leaving to live in ___________, she works hard in a tough job. That’s it Bob, please fill me in on it all, I await eagerly.
You have certainly experienced a number of deaths over time! Death of those close to us is very traumatic and often forces us to confront the reality of death head on, especially our own. Death tends to focus the mind as does anything associated with it.
Parents tend to worry a lot about their children and their safety regardless of their age (I have a daughter who is 47 and I still worry). When recent death is still being worked through in the psyche, the fear associated with it can get attached to events and people in the waking world.
There is also a sense of loss, great loss, or potential loss, and/or huge change associated with death, so it can also represent the loss of someone, especially if they are moving far away from us. Death can also represent a traumatic change in circumstances or relationship, or an ending.
Essentially, I’m detecting great emotions of fear and anxiety in this dream, fear of endings, of being out of control over what happens based upon recent and past events. I think that you are probably still working through and dealing with the death of your loved ones, even the severe trauma experienced by your boyfriend and the toll that sickness always takes on the caretaker (which is immense because you have to give up so much of yourself to give to them).
Because people in dreams are most often representative of the dreamer themselves, it is possible that there are aspects of your daughters (or their lives) that you recognize in yourself, or wish you had for yourself. Being in a box could be a metaphor for feeling ‘boxed in’ with some relationship or circumstance, while entangled in ropes could also be a metaphor for being ‘all tied up’, or entangled (trapped).
I am not a believer (but not a hard and fast disbeliever as well) in precognition (it kind of turns the whole concept of cause and effect on its head), though I do believe that the subconscious sees a lot that our conscious mind does not and as it puts two and two together during the dreaming process it can “see” what the waking mind cannot. Some people are very good at this. Your quote, ”_________ never under-estimate the power of your Psychic abilities” may be saying what it says, but it could also be telling you to trust in your feelings, or trust in your intuitive sense. The dream itself is of the Psyche (from which the word psychic comes), which includes the larger unconscious part of the Psyche and thus the quote can be an enjoinder to trust in this part of your self as well.
There is a nightmare dreaming itself into our world, sucking the blood from our minds, and eating the vitality of our souls. It spreads itself through ignorance, fear, and arrogance endarkening the land and withering all that grows upon it.
Certain elements of villainy from various religious faiths describe certain acts, images and words as being blasphemous to their religion and then feel the need to retaliate with death and destruction and with the greatest blasphemy to their faith possible– that of turning a loving religion into one of hate.
These are clearly people who are in touch with only the shallowest aspect of their being i.e. their egocentric-self. Their mental chatter is so loud that it has cut them off from the divine and led them deep into the darkness of their own fearful, angry, and rejected soul. The princes’ of darkness believe that they shine light upon evil but one cannot bring light to anything with a torch of blackness.
It is their own darkness that they project onto others, their own pain and fear that they spew blindly across the landscape. I say ‘blind’ because for them there is no light only the blackness of a soul cut off from the divine. They are a symptom of the spiritual and political crises that are spreading across the globe– a symbol of the polarized mind and disconnected soul.
Stop them we must but only by spreading the light that animates us all without falling into the black hole of evil that they have become. Banish the darkness by speaking in love, not hate, have fear but not be consumed by it, quiet the mind so you can see the divine in everyone. Stand up to those who have lost their real soul, those who have replaced it with the false idols of their egos.
The shadows of these false idols are cast upon us all and all but make it impossible to see the light.
Remain steadfast in the light of the knowledge of who you really are. Don’t ignore the nightmare but deal with it in the light. Reach for your enlightened self and not your gun for your gun slays both the “other” and yourself.
Confront the nightmare that is dreaming itself into our world, but let it not take you with it into the hell it has created. Remain steadfast in the light of the knowledge of who you really are and cast your light upon their darkness.
After several weeks of inanities spewing from the mouths of the Lords of Political and Economic Darkness, inflated egotistical bombasts of the small minded ultra right, several killings by people who should never have had access to guns, rabid “Orc soldiers of ISIS” killing, pillaging, and destroying all in their path in the name of a twisted understanding of their religion or maybe it was just the greed of wanting everything to be the way they think it should be, I had a nightmare that woke me panting and literally sweating in the darkness.
The story went like this:
The winged dark dragons were on the move swooping down on the villages of the world and laying waste to all hope and beauty. Their fiery breath spread fear even amongst the brave who stood their ground and paid with their lives. The land turned black with the dragon’s putrid breath of intolerance and hatred, even heroes cowered at the fierceness of their incessant destruction.
Soon the people in their helplessness turned on one another and the Dragon Lords laughed in delight for now their plan of death and destruction had turned inward causing the people to destroy themselves from within.
Fear ruled the heart of humankind and its unrelenting intensity withered and sapped the vitality of what was God’s experiment on Earth. This light of God began to flicker and sputter as the winds of many little wars, political onslaughts, false accusations, and intolerances caused a guttering of the candles of peace and threatened to blow their light out.
Who will lead the fractured peoples of the world into a new light? This time it cannot be just one man or woman, this time the collective wisdom of the many must be drawn upon. But how to martial them, how to wake the sleeping warriors of the True Peace?
No religion could save us for they all had been corrupted by the dragons of intolerance and no longer represented the love of God and humankind falling as they had into bastions of hatred, fear, intolerance, or massive indifference preferring to exclude what wasn’t them or making safe and minor moves toward some vague concept of peace but rarely putting their lives on the line in the name of love.
I woke up wondering what do we actually mean when we say we want peace? What does that look like? Is it the absence of conflict or a collaboration with it? Is it the rejection of that which seems un peaceful, but un peaceful by whose standard, whose definition?
This time the dragons of old cannot be slayed by just the swing of the sword. These dragons cannot be subdued at all for these dragons thrive on the cutting edge of the blade and the blood it spills upon the land. I believe that we need to learn a new way to be with this dragon that has always lived among us or we shall perish.
The dragons employ many a toady to spread their destruction. These parasites are trained to infect every ones heart with fear, hatred and misinformation e.g. that “guns are good, science is bad, my religion is good– theirs is bad, I’m right– they’re wrong, compromise is bad, it’s my way or the highway, and building walls against what we fear will protect us are just a few of the erroneous beliefs that the fifth columnists have snuck into the collective psyche through various political Trojan Horses and the people have welcomed the horse into the city.
We now have more than fear itself to fear for we have raised our ignorance to a whole new level by wrapping ourselves within its mind-numbing cocoon. The dragons rejoice in this because they know that when we embrace our ignorance with pride as we are beginning to do, we are near the end that they seek.
But my soul’s dark night provided another image, an image of hope amongst the despair for it also suggested that there will be a small number of brave souls who will seek, find and apply the answers needed to tame the dragons and that we will learn to live with them and use their immense energy toward the service of us all. Will you join this band of brothers and sisters and learn to wield what it will really take to subdue the human beast? It’s a quest fraught with danger and we might not make it home for quite some time, but if not us, who?
I had a dream recently that during its course was rather benign but became nightmarish when I awoke. Upon awakening the feeling of the dream morphed into near panic as I lay in bed trying to recall it so as to write it in my journal. It felt as though I had become possessed by something not of this world– something almost demonic.
As I pondered it a feeling of emotional overwhelm, loss of control, and alienation began to grow until I could stand it no more and forced myself from the bed. As I walked it felt as though I were falling down a hole– a rabbit hole. Then the main character image of the dream came to me and stood there in my memory with a big Cheshire Cat grin.
Ahh, the Cheshire Cat, an alien story arc that once read long ago left me with both confusion and understanding mixed together in an anxious soup. Somehow the dream was suggesting that I needed to move on from the arc of my life into another story. Somehow I was feeling alienated from the story I was in.
It reminded me of the story of Alice in the Wonderland books by Lewis Carroll where she fell down the rabbit hole, and that I was always falling down the hole but choosing not to notice.
And the Cheshire Cat grins as Alice asks, “Would you tell me please, which way I should go from here? “
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t care where. “
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
“As long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that” said the cat, “If you only walk long enough.”
I too don’t know where I am going, nor do I even know where I’ve been, or where I am now; forever falling down the rabbit hole.
“Have I gone mad?” … “You would have to be mad to dream me up.”
And I realize that it is I that would have to be half mad to dream this world up.
Life to me is seeming more like a riddle with no answer as with the Mad Hatter asking Alice, “Why is a raven like a writing desk? Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
Since I awoke something seems to have changed once again.
“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘who in the world am I?’ Ah that’s the great puzzle.”
Upon awakening from the dream and not knowing who I was– not knowing who I am– have I ever? Perhaps not, I think. Oh shit, do I have to throw all of the story I’ve created out the window?
Anxiety sets in, even panic and like Alice I feel as though I may drown in my own tears. I want to return to the old story but as Alice said, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
“Little Alice fell
The hole, bumped her head and bruised her soul.”
Haven’t we all?
Everything in quotations is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll