Interpreting a dream about ghosts of illness past
Dreams bring to light subconscious information. Something important that escapes your attention is highlighted in bright color (figuratively) in your dreams. That information can be critically important.
For example, in my book Dreams 1-2-3 I recount the dream of a mother with a small child. She dreamed there was a small white pill beneath her couch, and her first thought was about the safety of her child. In the morning she checked beneath her couch and found a white pill, a powerful medication that could have severely harmed or killed her child. Luckily, she found the pill before her child did. My guess is she had seen the pill out of the corner of her eye but it didn’t register consciously, so her dream made sure she got the message.
The dream we are about to discuss is another example of subconscious information brought to light. The dreamer described it as the weirdest and scariest dream he could remember. It is a story, told through symbolism, about when he caught typhoid fever as a child and almost died. The event occurred many years before the dream. Keep that in mind as we delve in.
Interpreting a dream like this one requires being intimately familiar with the dreamer’s personal history. Otherwise, an outsider will have great difficulty connecting the details to the dreamer’s life. Some dreams can be interpreted simply by looking at the details and taking guesses at what the symbolism means. They are relatively easy to interpret because the meaning is right there in your face. Not with this dream, though as you will see, the meaning is in plain sight once you know the details of the incident the dream illustrates.
The dream opens with a scene that sparks fear in the dreamer. Fear is an important detail because the dreamer used it to figure out the dream by focusing on what made him afraid, and he remembered an important incident from the day before the dream, which I’ll explain later. The dreamer is an adult male. Here is the opening scene of the dream.
(Link to original post. This version is edited for brevity.)
I am living in my childhood home with my parents. It’s a rainy night and I am on a bed, half asleep. Suddenly, a noise catches my attention, similar to the sound made by the pages of a book when they are flipped quickly. I get up and flip the light switch, but it’s not working. I shout and my parents come and tell me that the rain caused a power failure, but they leave a candle to help me see in the dark.
I go back to sleep and the noise starts again. I take the candle and start searching for the source of the noise. Then I notice that it comes from a wall that has a lot of pictures of saints. Something is ripping the pictures, one by one. I get scared and run to my parents’ room.
As I considered this scene all I could gather from it is the dreamer is scared by something. However, the dream is referencing the incident when the dreamer caught typhoid as a child. It happened after a heavy rain that caused a power failure. His parents lit candles at night. The childhood home depicted in the dream is near where he caught typhoid, and is the same house where the dreamer first showed symptoms of the illness.
I’m not sure what to make of the pictures of saints ripping. I think it could be another detail from his life. His parents were Catholic and might have had pictures of saints around the house. Also, saints are prayed to when a person is ill.
The next scene is filled with more details from the experience with typhoid.
I hear kids’ voices and laughter coming from outside. My mom says, “Don’t worry. They are just playing outside, just let them be. They won’t bother us anymore if they are distracted.” But I am angry, and shout, “Well, I’m pissed off! Why can’t they just realize that this is not their world anymore!? Those parasites, they are worse than ticks! I wish I had a flamethrower, so I could go outside right now and start shooting flames until they shut the hell up!”
The laughter stops. But some minutes later, the room starts to get very cold. Then, I see the silhouette of a woman coming near me. She gets into my bed and covers herself with the sheet. I start shouting, and my mother tells me to make the Sign of the Cross to make her vanish, but my hands are paralyzed. Then the ghost woman says, “Don’t bother me! I am very, very cold! Don’t you see I have just managed to get out of the river?”
This scene is quite mysterious until you see how it connects to the dreamer’s childhood battle with typhoid. Begin with the reference to parasites. Typhoid is caused by a bacteria, which is symbolized in the dream as parasites. After the dreamer was diagnosed with typhoid, the doctors told his parents to burn everything: bedding, clothes, toys. That explains the reference to a flamethrower. The laughing children references how the dreamer caught typhoid. He was playing in a river, having fun like a kid, and swallowed some water. That explains the ghost woman’s statement that she had just managed to get out of the river, and the children’s laughter.
Two days later the dreamer caught a high fever. He was extremely cold as he lay shivering in bed. His parents took him to the hospital, and he was put on antibiotics. However, his condition worsened and the doctors said there was nothing else they could do. A priest was called to deliver Last Rites. That explains the reference to making the Sign of the Cross.
This is how the dream ends:
My mom pulls me out of the bed, and the woman disappears. My parents tell me to calm myself, but I am too scared. Some minutes later, I hear the noise of a coming train. As this house is near a railroad, this isn’t something out of the ordinary, but I am curious, so I get near the window to watch it. Then I notice that the engine is a very old model, one that couldn’t possibly be in use. A black steam locomotive, and there isn’t any steam coming out of its chimney! After it, there are wagons made of wood with people inside of them, shouting.
Then, another train appears, this time a modern one. To me, it seems that this one is real, not a ghost train like the previous one. The train gets off the tracks and moves towards me. I try to shout, but my throat is blocked. Then I wake up!
Ghosts are associated with death, and the dreamer nearly died. When his parents realized he was seriously ill, they pulled him out of bed and started to drive to the hospital. But along the way they were blocked by a train. I can picture the scene, everyone starting to panic and shouting as they wait and wait for the train pass. That explains the presence of the trains in the dream, and the shouting of the people. The depiction of the first train as being ancient could be a way of saying the incident with the illness happened long ago.
I struggled initially to interpret this dream, made a few suggestions to the dreamer about the symbolism that didn’t ring a bell with him. I told him to focus on the fear aspect and think back on the day before the dream, searching his memory for anything that caused him fear.
The typhoid bacteria, a strain of salmonella
With that in mind he remembered he’d had a visitor to his house the day before the dream. He smelled something foul on the visitor’s breath—the distinct smell of typhoid, which his mother smelled on his breath once upon a time and didn’t recognize—but wrote it off and didn’t make a connection. However, it did spark fear in him. The day after the dream the visitor was supposed to return, but instead called to say he had woken up with a high fever and went to see a doctor. He was diagnosed with typhoid!
Now the dream makes sense: the fear, the ghost, the power outage, the reference to a river, the parasites, the flamethrower, the Sign of the Cross, the train, the saints. All the details tie in with the typhoid incident. Rather than just recount the incident verbatim, the dream turned it all into symbolism. Smelling typhoid on his visitor’s breath sparked it all—a smell he subconsciously recognized but failed to make the connection.
It is one of the most extraordinary dreams I’ve interpreted. And it makes me wonder how many other dreams I haven’t been able to decipher because I didn’t know enough about the dreamer.
A dream about ghosts of illness past.
Interpretation of a dream about boots
The way you react during a dream says a lot about how you really feel. The dream presents a scenario and you react to it, but what you react to is the symbolism, not to the overt story. Subconsciously you know what the symbolism means and react to that. This fact can help decipher some of the most perplexing dreams.
Here is an example to illustrate what I mean. I interpreted this dream at Reddit Dreams (edited for clarity; link to post:)
While standing outside of a shop, sitting on a step, I got approached by two Chinese people—an old woman on my left, and a middle-aged man on the right—both quite shady in their overall demeanor. They sat and crouched next to me, while staring at my shoes. Then kept gazing at them while exchanging a few words in their language, which I couldn’t understand. Soon after, the man popped me the question: “Would you sell those?” I refused, but he went on insisting, also voicing out some quick evaluation concerning the actual state of my boots—a pair of sporty boxing ones I’ve actually wear irl. “They’re a bit worn out. 8 euro.” I refused again, a tad offended by the utter unappreciative offer as well.
The dreamer is asked if he wants to sell his boots, and his reaction is ‘no way.’ He is even a bit offended by the idea. Now the trick is to figure out what the dream is really asking him.
To do that we must know what the boots symbolize. Boots or shoes can symbolize the path you’re on in life, your willingness to take action, preparing for a personal journey, or something that helps your life move forward. That’s the generalized “dream dictionary” definition of the symbolism. But oftentimes a symbol in a dream is based on the personal associations of the dreamer. I asked the dreamer what the boots meant to him.
He replied that the boots were his “stage boots.” He used to play in a band, and hadn’t worn the boots since the last time he played with that band. He’d been thinking about getting back into playing music, but wasn’t sure if it was worth the hassle. Maybe he was getting too old. Maybe he should just settle down.
Those associations reveal the meaning of the dream. When asked if he wants to sell the boots, he is really being asked if he wants to give up on playing music on stage. When told that the boots seem worn out, it’s really playing on the idea that he feels worn out. When the old man offer eight euro for the boots, it’s probably a way of symbolizing the low value the dreamer is putting on an important part of his life. The low offer could also be a deliberate attempt to rile him up and spark his feelings.
He is really being asked, are the boots really worth so little to you? Remember, the boots symbolize playing music on stage. It has nothing to do with the actual value of the boots, but to what they mean to him.
If he had sold the boots, or maybe haggled for a better offer, it would show he is ready to give up on the idea of playing music on stage. But because he reacts by rejecting the offer, I think he isn’t ready to hang up those shoes, er, boots just yet.
The first rule of dream interpretation
Some dreams are full of archetypal imagery and themes that offer a view into the deepest reaches of the inner world of the dreamer. They are windows to the soul. Analyzing these dreams using techniques such as those offered by depth psychology can lead to astute, sometimes life-changing insights.
However, as the lead moderator at Reddit Dreams, a popular online dreams forum, I have observed that most of the dreams submitted to the site have more to do with daily life than with life of the soul. They reflect the dreamers’ thoughts, concerns, and feelings, and tell stories about recent events in their lives. They can be interpreted with no special training or techniques simply by looking for the obvious meaning.
I will give you some examples and explain how I interpreted them, with the hope that you will better understand the everyday dreams that make up the bulk of your dream life. For the sake of brevity, I chose dreams with short descriptions (edited for brevity and clarity).
I’ve been dating this girl for six weeks and things are going great. But last night I dreamed she was at my house, in my bedroom, and wouldn’t allow me in. She said it was “too risky.”
When I interpret dreams I look for symbolism in the settings. The symbolism is often related to the function a setting has in daily life. A bedroom is for sleeping. It can be a place of privacy. It is also a setting where people have sex.
The young man who had this dream is ready to have sex with his girlfriend, but she is putting it off because it’s “too risky.” Combine the idea of “too risky” with the function of a bedroom as a place for having sex, and the meaning is obvious.
Now look at the next dream, also with a bedroom setting, and try to figure out what it relates to. The dreamer has a roommate; the roommate referred to in the dream is a person he lives with, not a fictional character the dream invented.
In my dream a gorilla jumps around my room being violent. I tell my roommate to lock him up. Then the gorilla comes to me and I am sweet with him, but in the back of my mind I’m afraid he could get violent again.
The reference to the roommate in this dream indicates that the gorilla is a symbol for him. Otherwise, why would the dreamer ask him to lock up the gorilla? The dream clearly connects together the roommate and the gorilla. The dreamer said his roommate would invade his privacy by entering his bedroom uninvited and messing with his computer. He also said that his roommate’s behavior could be described as acting like a gorilla, and he handled him delicately, leery of his unpredictability. (Read the original post if you like.)
Just for fun, let’s look at other possible interpretations for these dreams. The dream about the girlfriend could be interpreted as the dreamer denying his feminine side, because the girlfriend character shuts him out of his bedroom, a way of saying he is cut off from a feminine-oriented part of himself. We could spend hours talking about getting in touch with his “inner woman,” when really he just wants to physically get in touch with his girlfriend!
The dream about the gorilla could be interpreted as symbolizing the dreamer’s inner nature. We could end up talking about following instincts and getting to know his animal side, when actually the dream is describing his roommate.
My point is, keep it simple. The most obvious answer is often the correct one. When obvious answers don’t apply, we break out the tools Carl Jung and his contemporaries in depth psychology gave us to interpret dreams. With most dreams I don’t find it necessary, though.
This is another dream for which the obvious interpretation is the best one:
I dream that my fiance is completely blind. As we sit on the couch together I forget that he can no longer see my face and it makes me cry.
A reference to seeing someone in a dream can mean to see the person they are, to see the inside of them, not the outside. By portraying her fiance as blind, the dream is saying that the dreamer feels like he doesn’t really “see” her. There are other possible interpretations, but I zeroed in on this one because of the dreamer’s reaction. It hurts to know she is engaged to someone who doesn’t really see her for the person she is.
In comparison, check out the next dream, about processing perceptions related to the person the dreamer is about to marry. The dreamer is engaged and her wedding day is right around the corner.
I dream that it’s my wedding day and I’m about to say my vows in a big church full of people I know. Suddenly my ex-boyfriend barges through the doors and says he is there to rescue me.
The meaning of this dream seems obvious to me. She needs someone to rescue her from marrying the wrong person. She knows that marrying the person she is engaged to is a bad decision, but is blind to the obvious. She can’t figure it out for herself so her dream makes it unmistakable.
Dreams show us what we don’t realize consciously. They amplify the small voices in our head that are sometimes ignored or overlooked. They teach us what we need to know to make good decisions and live our lives better.
Depth psychology provided my introduction to dream interpretation, and I am forever grateful for how it expanded my mind and opened my life to new possibilities. It is invaluable for understanding those occasional dreams that have no obvious connection to daily life and ordinary concerns. The deep dreams about life of the soul. But before breaking out those dream interpretation tools, follow the first rule of dream interpretation and consider the obvious first.
Dream Interpretation: Apocalyptic Battle
Dreams exaggerate. They take something going on in your life or in yourself and blow it way out of proportion. They do this to get your attention and be memorable. You can have as many as 20 dreams in a night, and among all that content the few dreams that are the most important need to stand out. Many dreams simply process memories of the day and don’t really have anything to teach you, nor important meaning. Some are very important, very meaningful, and have much to teach you.
The dream about an apocalyptic battle I’m about to analyze is a great example of exaggeration to get a point across. It was shared at Reddit Dreams, where I’m a moderator.
(Link to original. I’m “RadOwl” in that discussion. I changed the dream description to present tense and lightly edited it.)
In my dream, I travel just about as far forward in time as it is possible to go, which is actually so far that time somehow loops over and takes me back to the very beginning of time, where the world is jagged, rocky, and constantly blanketed by a thick, silvery mist. There, the last remnants of humanity — super-soldiers augmented with cybernetic parts to enhance their combat prowess — are fighting an endless battle against an invading enemy force: strange, mantis-like humanoids that seem to be swarming en masse from the center of the earth, intent on eliminating the very last human settlement in history.
dream interpretation about an apocalyptic battle
Somehow, after briefly observing the battle, I know that things are going even worse than usual for humanity, so I go inside and voice my concerns to the person in charge — a tough-as-nails black woman in her mid-fifties — who then goes outside and fires the general overseeing the battle.
After that, I am back in the base for some reason, and I am being given a tour that showcases all the futuristic weapons and equipment that the soldiers are fighting with. The one that stands out the most for me is a sort of foldable APC: light as a feather but tough as a tank, it is made out of a material that looks like plastic but can withstand just about anything, and the whole thing can be collapsed like a tent and carried around by hand.
Wow, this dream has it all: time travel; battles to save humanity; futuristic technology; interpersonal drama; powerful alien enemies. It’s like an episode of Battlestar Galactica or something.
To interpret it, I began with the idea of battling something, because that’s the main theme of the dream. The other main idea that clued me in is the part about time travel, reaching the end only to go back to the beginning. The picture I got in my mind reminded me of people I know who work in high-pressure environments. They finish some huge project only to find another one waiting for them. They have a constant sense of alarm as they race to meet deadlines and stay on top of a tidal wave of work.
Specifically, I thought of someone I know who works for a major video gaming company. The team he is on work really hard and fast to produce a game, then work even harder and faster as the game is getting ready to launch. They sometimes eat and sleep at work. They do all that frantic work, finish the project, only to turn around and have a new project waiting for them. Rarely do they get a chance to take a breather.
I told the dreamer about the thoughts her dream sparked in me, and she related. She works in the front office at a private school and says there is always something that has to be done right now. The panic button is always being pushed. The work is endless. One project is finished and another immediately begins.
So with that in mind, take a look again at the dream’s description. The super-soldiers augmented with high technology are an exaggerated representation of the modern office worker armed with powerful computers and smart phones. The dreamer and her workmates are like soldiers fighting battles against on onslaught of work and responsibilities. The weapons the soldiers fight with represent the tools the dreamer uses to do her job. The mantis-like creatures are the impersonal forces she and her workmates face everyday in their work. If they fail to win the battle, they could end up harming the organization or losing their jobs.
To understand what the APC represents, the keyword is personnel. What is something high-tech that helps manage personnel? Sounds like a smart phone to me.
I thought at first that the black-lady leader and the general could represent someone getting fired at her workplace, but then with more thought about what a general does, I realized that this detail could be related to delegating work responsibilities. Generals lead. They also delegate. The black lady could represent a part of the dreamer that wants to be tough-as-nails when it comes to delegating responsibility and work load.
So as you can see, everything in this dream relates back to the dreamer’s work life. The dream could easily be confused for some sort of apocalypse in the dreamer’s life, but instead it’s an exaggerated representation of the apocalyptic battles she fights at work every day. She says she loves her job so leaving it is not an option. It might be a good idea though to take a breather and delegate more responsible.
Difference between precognitive and ordinary dreams
As a dreams expert who does a lot of media interviews, I am asked fairly often how to distinguish ordinary dreams from precognitive ones. In fact, I was recently asked that question on the Christine Upchurch Show. (I was her guest on Aug. 1, 2014 show. Scroll down to her archive).
Short answer: look for personal symbolism and rule out other possibilities.
First rule out that a dream you suspect to be precognitive is actually about something personal to you. The majority of dreams for most people are entirely personal. Ask yourself if the dream is residue from the previous day. Or does it express your anxieties or wishes. Physicist Russ Targ, who has studied precognition as a scientist and written extensively about it, uses this example: You know you haven’t studied for a test, you dream you fail it then really do fail it. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and not precognition.
While everyone has the ability to precognitive dream because it’s an innate ability, in my experience only a small subset of the population does it regularly and remember when they do. Most people don’t remember their dreams well enough to know if they do it or not.
An example of how to separate an ordinary dream from the extraordinary can be found in my book Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams. I used the case of Sugar Ray Robinson’s dream about killing his opponent in the ring. Before his welterweight bout with Jimmy Doyle in 1947, Sugar Ray dreamed that he knocked out Doyle and he subsequently died. Sugar Ray was so unnerved that he tried to back out of the fight. The fight promoter brought in a priest to assure Robinson it was “only a dream.” The rest is history.
Sugar Ray knocked out Doyle in the 8th round. Doyle died that night.
If I was the person brought in to counsel Robinson about his dream I’d begin by asking him if the details matched waking reality. In the dream, was the arena the same as the one he was scheduled to fight in? Were the people nearby, like his trainers and the ref, the same people he anticipated to be at the fight? Discrepancies between waking reality and dream reality are a sign of personal symbolism, though precognitive dreams are known to use symbolism and metaphor, too.
Next I’d explore the possibilities for symbolism. Killing someone in a dream can express personal hostility. Was there bad blood between him and Doyle, so that Robinson felt he “could kill that guy” in the figurative sense? If so, there would be a chance the dream expressed those feelings and was not precognition.
Then I’d explore if a subconscious fear was showing itself in the dream. Fighters die in the ring, rarely but it happens. Sugar Ray had no desire to actually kill someone – he was a great fighter with a vicious punch but was an honorable sportsman. I’d ask him if he feared he could kill Doyle because Doyle had taken too many hard blows to the head.
Some digging through historical accounts of the bout uncovered this possibility. Doyle was known to have head issues. He was a tenacious Irish fighter who publicly proclaimed he was fighting Robinson to earn the money to buy his mother a house. I think it’s possible Sugar Ray’s dream reflected a fear that Doyle should not be boxing anymore, then the fear came true. The dream might not have been precognitive in the strictest sense. Unfortunately, we can’t ask Robinson the questions needed to make that determination.
However, in his autobiography Robinson wrote, “I had knocked out guys before, dozens of them. But in those fights, I always had a good feeling, a conquering feeling when I saw them being counted out, maybe because I could see that they weren’t really hurt. But now, with Doyle stretched out and his eyes blank, I had that empty feeling you get when something in your life is really wrong, and all I could think of was the dream.”
Robinson added, “You warned me, God. You told me. Why did I let everyone talk me out of it.”
I think Robinson’s dream was precognitive, but it’s easier to judge after the fact.
A guy once asked me if a dream he’d had about a plane crash warned him he should not get on a flight he was scheduled to take the next day. I asked him if details from the dream matched waking reality. Was the airplane in the dream from the same airline he had booked? Was it the same type of plane? Were the airport and concourse the same? While precognitive dreams can use symbolism and metaphor, it’s not as likely to be used for details like these.
What I find is, if a dream is precognitive and metaphorical, the entire dream will be metaphor, not just pieces of it. I also asked the guy if something in his recent life could be symbolized as a plane crash. Planes take us to personal destinations. This dream theme often pops up when people are beginning something new and exciting like a romantic relationship or a business venture. The guy said yes, something with his job that he’d had high hopes for recently “crashed” in the figurative sense.
At the risk of being wrong I told him I did not think his dream was precognitive. I watched the news the next day with butterflies in my stomach, and fortunately there were no reports of plane crashes.
A piece of evidence used to support the existence of precognition comes from the fact that planes and trains that crash tend to have more empty seats than usual. An investigation of train crashes on the U.S. east coast during the 1950s showed that the trains that crashed or derailed had fewer passengers than the same trains on other days. The four passenger planes hijacked on September 11, 2001 had half their usual numbers of passengers.
There are many reports of people who did not take flights that crashed because they had a bad feeling. Sometimes though the reason why people miss those flights appears to be dumb luck. For example, Seth MacFarlane was booked on American Airlines Flight 11 on the morning of September 11, 2001, but he arrived ten minutes late because his travel agent gave him the wrong departure time and he was hungover, so he was running late anyway.
Which brings me around to the best way to tell a precognitive dream from an ordinary one: intuition. It’s a gut feeling. Some people who’ve had precognitive dreams report a buzzing sound during the dreams or a ringing in their ears when they wake up. The dreams have an unusual clarity. There can be a feeling like deja vu that accompanies them. For many people, trusting their gut feelings is a new experience. They don’t trust it and don’t know that precognition is a fact of life.
If you analyze a dream that you suspect is precognitive and it a). is not related to residue from the previous day, b). is not an expression of anxiety, c). does not express a wish, and d). is not personal symbolism, then consider that it’s precognitive. But most of all, trust your gut. The most important thing to remember is precognition is not prophecy. Precognition gives us the ability to act ahead of time, to change the possible outcome. In that way it’s more like a forecast. And forecasts can always change.
Visit my website Dreams 1-2-3.com to learn more about my system of dream interpretation. Or to hear more of my radio interviews, visit my media page.
Further information about precognition:
Researcher Ian Wilson’s theory about precognition. Well-researched and cited.
Essay: An Experiment with Time by J.W. Dunne, a seminal work about dream precognition.
Russ Targ’s TED Talk Not exactly about precognition but psi ability in general.
A dream interpretation: bathroom doors
The theme of bathroom doors comes up frequently in dreams related to privacy. The phrase “having a private moment” refers to using the bathroom. In Japan, public bathrooms are equipped with noisemakers so that you can drop a load and not bother your neighbor. Privacy and bathrooms are closely associated, and in the next dream the symbolism really shows itself:
I start out in a setting I like, a bookstore, office, etc. Then I have to use the bathroom. So I go find it and there’s not a soul in there but me, there’s dozens of amazing stalls, but no doors on them! The bathrooms are so lovely and I long to use one of them but I just can’t fathom the thought of using one of them without a door, in case someone walks in! Sometimes I’ll find a stall that has a door but it’s disgusting…. I’ve had these dreams since I was young.
Open or closed? The dream imagery gives away the meaning
The dreamer herself indicated that she thought the dream was related to privacy. It is a recurring dream theme, indicating an ongoing situation. The part that really gives away the meaning is the difference between the bathroom stalls. When there’s no door on the stall the bathrooms are “lovely.” When the stalls have doors the bathrooms are “disgusting.”
I conversed with the dreamer about the symbolism and she caught on quickly. Here is her reply:
I think the bathroom dreams might have something to do with my home life with my parents. Maybe because I feel like life is great with them but that I have no privacy, and when I do finally get the chance to shut them out and have my own life, it will not be as luxurious.
No shabby, insect-ridden hell hole apartments for this young lady. She prefers the luxury of living with her parents…at a price of not being able to shut them out. The door (or lack of it) on the stall symbolizes being able to shut people out of one’s private life. The same ideas applies to dreams about bathroom doors, not just stall doors. Case solved. Next dream.
Dream Interpretation: Acid thrown in face
The face is the part of the body most closely associated with personal identity. Without a face a person is less identifiable. So when dreams refer to the face it’s often symbolic of something related to a person’s identity. With that in mind, take a look at this dream I interpreted at Reddit (link to original post):
I dreamt that I was walking into a Mcdonalds and it was packed so I decided to leave. As I was leaving these two girls were standing outside and had a water bottle in their hand, they were giggling. I kind of stopped to look at them because I felt like they were up to trouble. Both of them looked at me and one of them said “Hey, come here.” That’s when I started running and they chased me. I somehow climbed a pole and got onto this ledge thing, but I was pretty much trapped. When I looked down they were smiling and giggling, looked at each other, and then looked at me. Then a stranger passed by, he was looking at me and then looked down at them. One of the girls said “Hey!” and as he looked at her she squirted the liquid into his face. He started screaming and holding his face, I saw faint smoke coming from it. He ran away as the girls started laughing. The dream ended with them looking up at me, smiling.
Acid attacks like this really do happen and it’s possible to dream about it as a reflection of something heard about it on the news, but in this case I see symbolism at work. Two parts stick out. One, the attack itself, and two, the girls who do it. My first impression was, “I know that type of girl.” They huddle in little groups and disparage everyone else, making themselves feel better by putting other people down. So my guess was that this person’s character or reputation has been attacked recently, probably by a female or group of females.
To make a long story short, this interpretation hit the nail on the head. This is what the dreamer said in response:
Well my mother and I have never had a good relationship. Putting me down is pretty much her specialty. Two weeks ago we actually got into a really explosive argument because, to put it frankly, I was sick of her shit. We haven’t spoken since but I’m pretty much still completely angry. Usually by now we would’ve gotten over it, but this fight was different. She still talks behind my back to other family members and friend. I honestly can’t even stand to look at her.
I’m not sure why McDonald’s is the initial setting — it might have to do with a connection between cheap food and cheap shots, as in personal attacks — but the rest of the dream is pretty obvious in light of this comment. The dream uses substitute characters because I bet it’s hard for the dreamer to see the situation for what it really is. The dream portrays it almost poetically, but think about if you were the person constantly being attacked by your mom. It would probably be hard to admit to yourself that what she does is the symbolic equivalent of getting acid thrown in your face. Also, it’s not the dreamer but a stranger who gets attacked, yet the stranger is a substitute for the dreamer. Again, it’s to create some distance so that the dreamer can observe the situation and get the message without being too disturbed by the dream content before the dream runs its course.
The part about climbing the pole and getting stuck on a ledge is also a perfect metaphor for the situation the dreamer is in with his mom (and, by the way, with the rest of his family, as they follow her lead and tear into him too). Being up on a pole is a way of saying he is alone in this situation. He is trying to get away from it but can’t. Stuck on a ledge is also a variation of the same idea. It symbolizes being in a precarious situation.
Man, what a mother. Good luck, dreamer. I suggested that he get away from his family. His response: I’m trying.
For more about body symbolism in dreams, see this dream about a leg amputated,
this dream about a callous over the heart,
this dream about earwax,
this dream about false teeth,
and this dream about pulling a hair from a foot.
Two lions can represent two sides of the same coin, expressing an internal power dynamic, but not in this dream.
Dream interpretation: two lions in a dungeon
When interpreting a dream, one of the first steps — if not THE first step — is to gage whether it’s an internal or external dream. Does it speak to something going on inside the dreamer, or outside the dreamer? Some dreams describe what is happening inside a person, some describe what’s happening externally in a person’s life. The difference isn’t always apparent at first, and there can be overlap, but it’s a great place to begin because the approaches to interpreting external and internal dreams are a little different, and knowing the difference narrows down the possibilities.
The dream I’m about to discuss looks like an internal dream at first glance because the imagery does not seem to be related to anything going on externally in the dreamer’s life. External dreams often have settings and characters from external life. If you dream about work or school, work or school will be the setting and it will be populated with characters from those areas of life. However, when a dream needs to express something that’s difficult for the dreamer to wrestle with or “see”, it will disguise the waking-life source. With that in mind, take a look (link to original post at Reddit):
I was having a normal dream with nothing weird when all of a sudden it stopped and I was in a dark dungeon with iron gates all around each side, each with a staircase leading up and out of there.
At the nearest staircase a lion fell down and hit the gate he was behind. He was terrified. He took a glance back up the stair then carefully climbed through the gate into the dungeon and stared at the far side of the dungeon.
There was a huge intricate gate in front of a grand staircase. The gate had the image of a lion’s left profile. The eye was hollow and dripping water as if it were crying. Slowly, the image of the lion started to speak, “I am blind in this eye, so I cannot see you” the image turned its face toward the real lion, revealing its second eye, “But with this eye, I can see right through you!”
The huge gate swung open and the real lion ran as fast as it could up the staircase.
Then my normal dreams returned as if nothing had happened except I was blind in my right eye.
The first detail from the dream that sticks out at me is the dichotomy of the two lions, one terrified, the other sort of omniscient. Pairings like this in a dream can be a way of expressing archetypal symbolism. Archetypes are powerful centers within the deep psyche that shape human energy, made up of a “positive side” and a “negative side.” Think of positive and negative as polarity like you get with protons and electrons. It’s an esoteric subject that I won’t get into now, point is that archetypes are solely internal for a dreamer. In dreams, the presence of archetypes is a dead giveaway that the dream is describing an internal power dynamic. Even though one of the lions is made of iron and the other of flesh, they can still be looked it as a pairing.
But not so fast, cowboy. I suggested to the dreamer that she look for internal power dynamics in the dream by examining the lions and looking for ways she related to them. What I suspected was two sides of the dreamer — one timid (negative) and the other assertive (positive) — were in conflict. Dynamic conflict is the essence of personal change and transformation. I had a hunch the dreamer was trying to change something about herself, perhaps trying to become less passive and more assertive.
Her response was lukewarm so I focused next on astrological symbolism in the lions. Dreams can create symbols for pe0ple based off their astrological signs, and Leo is the lion. Leos come into two basic flavors, one overtly aggressive, the other passive-aggressive. It’s like the difference between Mufasa and Scar in The Lion King movie. The dreamer replied that her husband is a Leo and she is a Capricorn. I wondered whether her husband didn’t really “see” her on the one hand, and saw right through her on the other. It could tie together the symbolism between two distinctive details of the dream. The dreamer didn’t make a connection so I moved on to the setting.
This is really where I should have begun hunting for the meaning of the dream. A dungeon is a helluva setting and the symbolism is very telling. It implies that the dreamer feels trapped in a situation. I wondered whether her husband the Leo had her trapped in an abusive relationship or something. In my system of dream interpretation, settings are one of the keys to analyzing a dream. So I suggested to the dreamer that the dungeon could symbolize that she feels trapped. Question was, by what? Relationships can be entrapping, but so can work situations, school situations, personal situations. With that one suggestion, the dreamer made a powerful connection. In her words:
I do feel trapped in my job –
And now that I think about it, I’m wondering if the iron lion represents corporate and higher management. The ones who make the decisions. The don’t see me, they see employee #538. The tears could be crocodile tears, from when they send memos down to us to say, “We ‘care’ about you, now work harder!”
I’m suddenly seeing a ton of ways this connects to how I feel about my job. The natural lion had no choice but to run up the iron lion’s stairs. The iron lion had control and knew it and it will bring the natural lion right back down to the dungeon again.
Maybe it wasn’t that the natural lion looked fearfully up the stairs he first fell down – maybe he was just longing to go back up the stairs but knew he couldn’t. He had to bow to the iron lion’s will before he moved on.
Corporate has been real shitty to us on the lowest rungs on the ladder here lately. Everything is our faults and they claim they want to just fire everyone and start over.
Wow. I guess my mind really wanted me to take a good look at where I was in life.
Wow indeed. What a way for a dream to express what’s going on in the dreamer’s work life! The dream is not about internal power dynamics of the dreamer, but external power dynamics at work.
Back story: This person (20/f) had this dream while working 60-hour weeks travelling across the U.S. in a van as part of a disaster relief program. Click the back story link to see the original post at Reddit (edited for brevity and clarity):
I walk around a house with my volunteer team … and find hidden doors. I walk through them, then keep going down hallways to the next door. Eventually I come across my boyfriend and we get into this huge fight. I look at his phone and he has been texting other girls, sexting with them and going out partying with this guy I can’t stand, which is out of his normal behavior.
Then I am in a car with him, crying and arguing, asking why he keeps defending that person to me and why he would be messaging other girls. He says I’m self-righteous and how dare I judge anyone. Then I ran out of the car and into this room surrounded by mirrors. My hair is messy and makeup runs down my face from crying. I am insanely skinny and as I look in the mirror I keep losing weight. Then I reach up because one of my teeth feels weird, as if it is falling out. I walk closer to the mirror and see the one of my teeth is turning black. Right as I barely touch it, it falls into my hand and my mouth starts bleeding.
I start feeling anxious and cry again. Then my mom walks up behind me and looks at me through the mirror, repeating, “We’ll will fix this, everything is going to be okay.” But I don’t feel okay, I am scared and hurt and can’t get out of the room of mirrors.
Finding hidden or secret rooms can be a dream’s way of saying it’s exploring things hidden from you, making discoveries. The person who had this dream is finding out new things about herself as she is challenged by her job and the lengthy time away from her boyfriend. She is worried and it shows in her dream.
The behavior of her boyfriend dream character is a projection of her feelings. It has nothing to do with her boyfriend per se, and everything to do with her fears about what could happen since she can’t be around to give him the attention he wants and keep an eye on him. When dream characters act out of character from the person you know it’s a sign of symbolism. The image of her boyfriend is merely playing a role scripted for him by the dream story. Her mind is filling in gaps with her worst fears by showing him sexting with other girls and hanging out with people she doesn’t like because they’re bad influences.
The dream dramatizes the situation to make her aware of how she really feels. Next it shows her the source of her fears in her insecurity. Mirrors are used to help us groom and see our appearance. They have a variety of symbolic uses based on those functions. In this dream, being surrounded by mirrors says to me that the dreamer is concerned about her appearance. The dream portrays her disheveled feelings as a disheveled appearance, hair messed up, makeup running down her face.
The source of her fears go deeper, as illustrated by the mirrors showing her to be “insanely skinny” and still losing weight. This ties in with an eating disorder. Some people with eating disorders can never be skinny enough to be satisfied so they waste away in pursuit of an unhealthy image.
The presence of the dreamer’s mother points toward a solution. The dreamer told me that her mother helped get her life back on track and pushed to get her into the disaster relief program. Her mother is a woman the dreamer knows who has a healthy self-image. The dreamer can learn from her how to overcome her anxieties and insecurities.
Anxiety dreams are common. Some traditions even go as far as to claim that all dreams are the result of anxieties. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think that anxieties show up often in dreams and by understanding the symbolism the dreams can be used for personal growth and healing.
Dream about leg amputated voluntarily – What does it mean?
Dreams use parts of the body as symbolism, and lately legs have been mentioned in dreams shared at Reddit Dreams where I’m a moderator. Take this one for example (original post at Reddit):
In the dream I am planning on having my leg amputated.
The guy goes on to say he is overweight and has a history of diabetes. He’s taking two college classes and failing one of them — anatomy — that he needs to get through nursing school. On top of that, he’s considering a change of schools and it will mean his wife supports them till he graduates and gets a job.
In this dream, leg amputation is symbolism.
Those details give me a few directions to go in. Is it a health warning dream, a way of saying if the dreamer continues on his present course, overweight and diabetic, he might as well cut off his leg? Untreated diabetes can lead to amputations, and the fear of it could be in the back of his mind. Is it a warning to not put too much burden on his wife, who will have to carry the load, or a way saying “legs cut out from beneath you?” That’s getting warmer.
To figure out the meaning of the dream, ask yourself what legs do. Legs take us places. They make us move, and in dreams movement is often connected with movement in a person’s life. Through our conversation on Reddit I found out the dreamer planned to drop his anatomy class that day. In a way, he’s cutting one of his legs off. It’s a setback that will hamper his ability to move his life forward.
The part of the dream that stood out to me is he voluntarily decides to amputate his leg. It’s something that would usually jar a person back to reality, but when it’s dream symbolism we tend to play along because we know subconsciously things are not what they appear.
The dreamer agreed with the interpretation and added that in the class he was dropping, he had a test that day on, of all subjects, leg anatomy.
In another dream with leg symbolism, the dreamer is with two friends driving Lamborghinis. One friend decides to take it to the next level and long board. He crashes and badly wounds his leg. He acts like it’s no big deal, happens all the time. At the hospital he cuts off pieces of his leg, puts them in bags of popcorn and passes them around.
Sounds like some crazy shit, but it’s all understandable as symbolism. Driving around in overcharged sports cars can be a way of symbolizing that the dreamer and his friends are daredevils always seeking the next adventure. The friend who injures himself takes it too far, from the dreamer’s perspective. I used an example of someone who takes mad amounts of pills and pretends like it’s all good. It’s not, but you pretend. The guy who had the dream said it wasn’t pills but something similar.
Another clue is in how the friend passes around pieces of his leg. It’s a way of saying he shares his misery or bad habits. Knowing that the dreamer is in high school and remembering what my friends and I were like at that age, I could picture the scene. Turns out I hit the interpretation on the head.