emotional trauma

Hi Angela -

Thanks for writing. I think your dream indicates a powerful moment in your life that you experienced as a young girl. The fact that you feel the dream is significant lends support to this assessment, as does the fact the dream is recurring. Recurring dreams, especially dreams that are emotionally distressing, invariably indicate some level of emotional trauma. However, as with all dreams, only you can really fill in the missing details.

Caves in dreams indicate darkness and mystery, and forbidden places. Also, with caves, one always has to be on the lookout for any sexual associations that may be present, as caves for fairly obvious literal reasons often represent the female genitalia. The fact that the cave metamorphosed into a bed when you entered into it - with your mother laying on it - suggests such a theme.

The transition that is apparent to me in this dream involves your (and your sister’s) changing perception of your mother. In the dream, your mother is sick on the bed and you feel a sense of dread and foreboding at her condition. In fact, the sense of dread is so great that it literally paralyzes you in the dream - you and your sister become “statues” - frozen in time - yet as your dream so skillfully illustrates - you are “frozen” and “not frozen” at the same time. This is a remarkable dream depiction of the process of repression, which is a psycho dynamic process that occurs when feelings or awarenesses are so powerful that they threaten to overwhelm us. When we “repress” feelings we block them out, and avoid them, and then engage in a process of continuing to avoid them for as long a time as the material remains threatening to us. In less clinical terms, a part of us, in essence, becomes “frozen in time.” This area of feeling and awareness is not allowed to grow or develop, because we refuse (and/or lack the skills) to integrate it into our conscious awareness. The question I have, and which only you can answer, is whether or not you and your sister were becoming aware of your mother’s mortality at this young age - which is indeed a mortifying thought for any child - or whether you were becoming aware of the passing - indeed “death” - of your mother’s sexual vigor, or of her attractiveness to your father?

Your father plays an interesting role in the dream, because he is there “for a second” and then... what happens? He leaves. Dreams, especially recurring dreams, are never casual in their representations of events. Therefore the fact that your father left, as opposed to sticking around, trying to get help for your mother, trying to console you - indeed, even noticing your and your sister’s plight and trying to help - to me is significant.

Without knowing your family history it is difficult for me to assess your dream further. Was your mother ever seriously ill when you were a young child? Did your parents separate or divorce? If so, how old were you? It is very common for children to be sensitive to dynamics that are occurring among their parents without them necessarily being able to concretely express or understand their own perceptions, much less have the psychological repertoire to integrate such threatening feelings into a secure world view. Which is exactly why repression exists: it is Nature’s safeguard to help us through difficult psychological times. The challenge of psychological maturity, on the other hand, is to be able to go back to these areas and to understand them and integrate them into our everyday conscious personality, so that we no longer avoid them. The reason we wish to dismantle the avoidance process is because it is - as a rule - performed unconsciously, which in turn means we perform unconsciously motivated behaviors of avoidance. Consequences of avoidance can include any and all of the addictions, limited emotional repetoire, limited emotional balance, and senses of discontinuity with our past.

I hope I haven’t dredged up more material from your past than you wanted to explore. On the other hand, I think your interest in understanding your dream indicates a willingness and desire on your part to re-integrate these areas with your present, conscious awareness. I am curious, also, as to how your sister is doing. Please let me know if the above sheds any light on your dream.

Thanks very much for writing.


Dear Charles -

I was amazed and astonished that you could read so much into my dream! Incredibly, most of what you surmised from my dream was true. I am very pleased. I’m also beginning to understand myself what the dream meant.

My parents were never divorced and are still married. However, as a child, I was always insecure about their marriage. I don’t believe I had a true reason to feel that way, but I just always did. Whenever they would have even a small, conversational disagreement I would become worried that they would divorce. I can’t tell you why I felt like this because I, myself, do not know. I do not even recall the issue ever being raised in my household. Do you think, perhaps, that my father leaving the cave represents these fears I had as a child of my parents separating?

Thank you for helping me learn more about myself and dream. I never imagined that a dream could hold so much information and I am grateful to you. Thank you,

Sincerely, Angela

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