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-related 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 (dream about tion lions in a dungeon):
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.