Dream Analysis To Help With Anger and Stress Management
The dream that helped Damien understand the trap he was in, fearing commitment and choices was the first of a series that helped him prepare to propose to his girlfriend and adjust his relationship with his mother. Now he was ready to propose, but how would his mother react?
The eldest of three children, Damien felt responsible for his mother’s welfare. His younger siblings were in college and his father wasn’t reliable. Damien enjoyed getting advice on ‘the right thing to do,’ from his mother, who also took care of him in ways that made their bond special.
He knew his mother wanted him to marry a girl that came from the same ethnic and religious background. There was nothing more important to him than his prospective wife and mother getting along. Would his mother approve of Leila? Would they find a way of relating without making him choose between them? Would Leila be okay with him visiting his mother after church every Sunday? Would Leila be okay with him continuing to take care of his mother’s car insurance payments?
Then came a dream that illuminated his predicament and helped answered his question, freeing him from his self-imposed dilemmas – just like the teepee cage in the last dream.
“I was walking and saw a baby alligator. It was still attached to its mother with tissue that looked like a placenta. It didn’t hatch out of an egg. There were zoo keepers and then there was an alligator tail coming out of my chest. It was taken out and even though there was a hole, I felt good.”
Damien associated alligators with hard skin that is Impenetrable” so he can’t get out, nor can others get in to help him. As we explored the image in the dream, Damien talked about the hard skin being a barrier to connecting with others. He noticed that he felt disconnected and awkward in groups. He was also having trouble connecting with Leila, torn between his affiliation with his mother and his girlfriend.
This is what we made of the dream in his therapy, using the context of is life at that time as the backdrop.
Alligators are reptiles that live in water and on land. Damien’s psyche was showing him that he is operating as a reptile. He can live in a state of unawareness, represented by the water, or he can live on land – but he can’t survive if he is still attached to his mother’s placenta!
Both the water and the placenta show his anxiety about being his ‘own man. Damien feared that without the basic nurturance from the placenta, and the womb like existence of the water he wouldn’t be able to survive successfully.
The image of hope came via the image of the bit of alligator tail that was coming out of his chest.
The remnant of alligator tail symbolized the beginnings of his awareness of his own capability and wish to prove it. He is given hope that he can take himself out of his entrenched reptilian mode and live freely making choices and decisions for his life – not just being seduced by care taking and then discover that he has given over charge of his life to others.
This dream stayed with Damien for weeks.
We related his resistance to changing his ways to the ‘hard skin’ of the alligator. We connected his tendency to get carried away with his work, ignoring his personal life with being in the water, oblivious to reality. He also made the link between his growing unease with being treated like a child by his mother.
The image of pulling out the remnants of the alligator tail from his chest gave Damien the confidence he needed to propose to Leila even if it meant he would have to give up the care of his mother. His conflict about having to choose between his mother and Leila (the water or the land) dissolved. He became a fully-fledged mammal, shedding his reptilian self.
Leila accepted his proposal with excitement and much happiness. Damien was relieved and felt like he was finally getting on the path of achieving his masculine identity. He told his parents that he was engaged and welcomed his mother getting involved in the wedding plans. He was fulfilling his manly role and that felt good.
What Damien hadn’t anticipated was his mother would make a last ditch attempt to keep the placenta attached. She began giving him gifts of personal care items- reflecting an intimacy that was inappropriate for an adult male and his mother. He didn’t want to hurt her by refusing them, nor overrule her on the choice of wedding stationary she was ordering.
Reminders of the tail remnant he pulled out of his chest in therapy were immensely powerful in helping Damien find his strength to tell his mother what he wanted and what he didn’t. He cut the placenta and survived. She backed down and he didn’t feel guilty.
Damien had many days and nights of doubt about his choice of wife. As he became more self-assured and realized that making choices and commitments (being on land without being attached to the placenta) didn’t mess up his life, he approached his wedding ‘knowing’ this was the right thing for him. The hard alligator skin was no longer needed to protect him from taking risks. He owned his warm bloodedness fully. What a gift of a dream from his psyche!
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
AUTHOR OF:’ Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: Ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationship.
You might also like:
How a Dream Can Help You Overcome Your Fear Of Making Your Own Choices (part 1 of Damien’s story)
Disclaimer: this article is for educational and informational purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have when reading the material or following the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.