Demo #4: Dreams mix outer and inner life
You now have the tools and information you need to recognize the features and landmarks along dream interpretation road by traveling this far into RadOwl’s crash course. You see how how dreams source their stories and symbolism from memories and feelings. In the details of the dream and your experience of it you find the signs to follow toward tracing the source of the dream to outer life and inner life, knowing that the related memories are displayed for you as symbolic imagery and actions.
Dream content drawn from outer life usually correlates with it by featuring familiar people, places, and other aspects of daily reality. Usually, but not always. Dreams can tell imaginary stories about events that happen and especially about the personal impact.
Think back to the demo dream where the man dressed as a cop chooses to ignore a crime and how we followed the clues to his memory of choosing to ignore cheating during an exam. The dream doesn’t feature anything from outer life that overtly points us that direction. Instead, we find the source material in the meaning of the metaphor the dream enacts. The dream occurs soon after the experience, raising the likelihood to almost certain that related memories are being processed in the brain and translated into symbolic imagery.
Trace the dream back to its source
With dream interpretation, things are rarely as they appear, and what might appear to source from one area of life may be actually from a different area of life, or be only one layer of meaning and personal significance among several. Dreams tell stories by using symbolism, simple facts #2 and #3, so there’s going to be a hidden meaning behind everything. And the recipe for the standard dream is to mix outer life with inner life, first by showing a feature of outer life in symbolic form, then showing the reaction in your inner world, everything from how you react in your feelings to how you reconfigure yourself from the brain down to adapt to circumstances.
Differentiating outer life from inner life in dream content can be trickier than I’ve demonstrated for you, for all the previous reasons and more. When you interpret a dream you are entering the territory of a part of yourself that knows more than you do and sees from the perspective of the collective experience of our species going back to its origins. The unconscious mind has no blind spots or ego turf. It’s rarely predictable enough for us to establish hard rules for dream interpretation.
My rule of hand is to look for imaginary elements and situations during Step 2, Story Analysis and gauge how far the dream ranges away from waking reality and over to fantasy land. Fantasy is the underpinning of inner life. Inner life is where I first investigate imaginary elements and situations — where I question and seek answers and apply the D3 Steps. And the further into fantasy a dream ranges, the further it is likely to dig into the core of you, the deepest inner heart and spirit, to syphon out the raw material, the fodder.
Here’s where the interpretation process requires even more closely examining each scene and each detail and examining yourself to find the source of it. In the coming demos where inner life plays a greater role, we find at first a mix of outer life and inner life. Then we’ll move farther along the spectrum toward dreams that are more imaginary and based on inner life.
You already know how it works. In Demo #2 we dissected the dream about the mom driving out of control and found the source in the dreamer’s outer life with his mom. The dream gets more imaginary as it expresses his feelings and perceptions through the imagery of mom plunging her truck into an icy lake and him rescuing her. The story follows the pattern of first showing what’s happening in outer life, then how the dreamer responds in inner life.
Keep in mind the observation that dreams are known for showing how you react internally to what happens in your life externally. It’s about to come in handy as you step up your game and interpret the next dream along with me.
Interpret a Dream: Poisoning My Beloved Dog
What Did I Just Do?!
In my dream my mom tells me I have to poison my pet dog, the dog I love more than anything. I don’t want to do it but she persists and comes up with some reason I can’t refuse. So I pour poison in my dog’s kibbles and watch her eat. She gets weak and lays down, and soon after she dies in my arms.
I realize what a terrible thing I’ve done and lose my mind with fury. I scream at my mom for making me do this and punch her in the face over and over as hard as I can. She just laughs.
I storm out of the bedroom and into the living room where members of my extended family are sitting around. I tell them my mom made me kill my dog, but they tell me I’m overreacting.A dream shared at Reddit
The opening scene of a dream is often the place in the story to find the main subject and central idea that connects the dots. Do you see suggestions for a subject or central idea in this opener where the dreamer is convinced by her mom to poison her pet?
What is the dream really saying?
Where do you begin interpreting?
Think about it.
Begin with the setting, Step 1, the first story element. Apply what you have learned about interpreting symbolism and analyzing the story. Why does the dream choose that particular setting? It could be because of a bedroom’s symbolism for something close and personal. Bedrooms are personal spaces. The dream deliberately and purposefully chooses the bedroom setting to open the story, so to find the meaning, we’re looking for something close and personal to the dreamer. That’s my initial hunch for helping to interpret this dream, and since I already know what it means, I’m handing you a verified clue. The source of this dream is found in very close and personal feelings and context.
Characters: mom, dreamer, family members
Step 1, Story Elements: The dreamer’s relationship with her mom is the obvious first place to look for personal context. Then we really want to interpret the symbolism of her pet dog and what it means to be convinced to kill it. The action with that symbol is central to the story, and it’s likely to be where we find the central idea. Context and the central idea are part of Step 3, and we’re already keeping an eye out for them in Step 1 when we break down the dream into story elements (settings, characters, symbols) and narrative components (actions, reactions, resolutions).
The pet plays a role in the story so it’s thought of as a dream character, too, and to understand what the dream is really saying we look to what dogs can symbolize and find it in the dreamer’s personal context — what the pet means personally to her — explained below. Imagine being manipulated into poisoning something you love dearly. Step into the shoes of the dreamer to help her understand what her dream really means by picturing it as your own. Feel it.
The family members present in the dream’s final scene are understood as representing something symbolically as a group since they act together as a group. Family life is the obvious first choice. They are shown in the dreamer’s living room because they’re an active part of the dreamer’s life and entangled in the dreamer’s relationship — her “living situation” — with her mom.
Symbols: poison. She pours poison on her dog’s kibble. Is that a symbol or a symbolic action? Poisoning is a verb that captures the meaning and understood better as a symbolic action.
Actions: poisoning, dying, being told she’s overreacting
Steps 1 and 2, Narrative Components: How often do you see the word poisoning used to mean something other than malicious use of a toxic substance? Poisoning your mind. Poisoning your body. Poisoning your feelings. Dreams are rarely literal so you always look for figurative meaning first. I narrow it down to poisoning a relationship because the woman who experienced the dream has a close relationship with her pet and in the dream she poisons it. The meaning is enacted and it’s easy to see if you’re fluent in dream-speak.
I walk you step by step through the D3 process beginning with Step 1, but there are times when I can’t figure out a dream until far into the interpretation process. Then, by grasping the meaning of a detail or a scene I gain the master password to unlock other doors. In this case, the action of poisoning tells the story. Understand that, and the rest of the dream’s interpretation comes together.
Reaction: choosing to go along with mom’s plan, punching and screaming, her family’s reaction
Narrative Components: The dream paints a scenario in the opening scene and presents the dreamer with the choice of going along with mom or saying no. The dreamer makes her choice, under duress, and it leads to the action of her pet dog dying. She knows subconsciously what’s really being asked here, simple fact #1, and her reaction in this case is driven by the fact that she made her choice already in waking life and is now acting out the result.
She doesn’t really have a choice in this scene because she’s an actor in this story, a character following a script written subconsciously. But when she punches and screams she’s reacting from her emotions. Strong ones are behind the subject of this dream. It’s plain to see.
Punching can mean things symbolically such as “taking aim” or “keep your distance,” but in this case it’s coupled with screaming and rage and that’s a heartfelt reaction. Screaming and punching. Yeah, that’s what she feels like. That part of the story is a small picture that fits into the big picture that’s emerging for us to see.
Inner life? Yeah, the dreamer’s behavior in this scene is not at all how she acts or has acted in waking life, a possibility you always explore. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s how she feels. It could even portend a development in the woman and her relationship with her mother. She can’t change mom, but maybe now’s the time to stand up to her. You’re about to find out why.
Context – it all comes together
The dreamer took my suggestions and found obvious parallels in her life. She describes her mom as a manipulative narcissist, and recently mom had pushed her to ask her best friend to marry her. She resisted but relented eventually, just like in the dream, and it nearly killed the relationship with her friend.
Do you see the parallels in the dream’s story?
Here we find the meaning of “poison the relationship” acted out by the dream. Her dog is her best friend. The person she asked to marry her is her other best friend. The connection is made obvious by interpreting the symbolism of poisoning. Simplify poisoning to its basic idea of something that harms and search for the personal parallel.
We also find the meaning of the opening scene. Mom convinces her to do something she knows she shouldn’t but she does it anyway. That’s the simple way of summing up the scene. She then symbolically enacts the drama as poisoning her best friend, another simple idea.
In her waking life, she complains to her family about her mom’s manipulations and scheming and they say she’s overreacting, just like they do in the dream. It’s how her family in general reacts to her. That detail is scripted on reality for the dreamer.
Dream interpretation: Connect the dots
Every single detail of the dream constellates around the central idea of going along with mom’s scheme: agreeing to poison her dog then doing it; punching and screaming; mom laughing; family’s reaction.
It’s all understandable now. After reflection and with this interpretation in hand, the young woman who experienced the dream can consciously process the experience with her mom and best friend. She has a lot to digest.
Resolution is TBD. The ball is in her court. But now she has a shorthand way of encapsulating the situation. The picture of her rage-punching her sarcastically-laughing mother while her dead pet grows cold in the background says it all.
Dreams process memories — which ones?
The dream occurred a short time after the incident and is based on more than just processing the raw memories and emotions. It draws on memory going back farther in time.
Think of the dream as a “Week in Review,” when next-level processing occurs, a regular feature of dream life. Dreaming is a two-stage process of daily processing, and weekly-or-longer processing. The most important memories are incorporated into you.
This dream’s many details tell a story that begins with a recent event in the dreamer’s outer life, then incorporates aspects of inner life — namely, feelings which have developed and hardened over the course of many years. There’s a lot to understand about the dreamer to see the parallels between the dream and her life, both present and past… and future, when she will either create resolution or not. The question begs to be asked, when is she going to tell off her mom?
The dream is influenced by the dreamer’s subjective perceptions and feelings and is not read as a factual account of what really happened or how things really are. Her mom might have a very different take on the situation, and so might the dreamer’s family. But when mom as a dream characters laughs at her daughter’s rage and despair I see more than a subjective summation of their relationship, I see mom’s manipulative narcissism. I see reality for this person.
The dream is subjective, but I think it’s objective, too.
One more demo and we’re ready to review — almost done! Great job. You only need a bit more info and training about inner life dreams to complete RadOwl’s Crash Course in Dream Interpretation. But don’t think the lights shut off when this show ends because you’ve got DreamScool.net. Everything you need is below — see you at the final demo.
Read: dreams’ role in memory incorporation.